Control Those Pesky Politicians, Says TV Ad

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The opening TV ad from the omnibus campaign to pass all six budget ballot measures is out, and it's clear that the campaign is appealing to the popular sentiment that only voters can rein in those pesky politicians.

The ad from the campaign led by Governor Schwarzenegger uses the common sense of an average Joe to make its case for Propositions 1A-1F. The message: these are a way for "us voters to clean things up."

The ad offers only a few specifics, and those are squarely reasons to support the Proposition 1A spending constraint/reserve fund. Our Average Joe says that it's a "spending limit they can't change" and brings "budget stability." He also says the package will "hold politicians accountable," and "help hold the line on higher taxes."

(Aside: the guy says he's been "reading about" the proposals and is holding a newspaper. Who reads newspapers anymore? Sorry, print colleagues, bad joke.)

It's true that legislators and the governor couldn't change the spending formula itself; they could, however, raise taxes and have the formula spit out a more generous spending target... although the spending target would increase only after those taxes have been in place for 10 years.

Of course, as we pointed out in our reporting earlier this week, Prop 1A doesn't prohibit a tax increase for higher spending immediately.

It's somewhat unclear how any of the six measures "hold politcians accountable," unless that simply means the measures make it harder for lawmakers to make decisions on their own.

As for the measures helping "hold the line on higher taxes"... that one should be fun to watch anti-tax advocates react to.

It's true that Prop 1A, along with Proposition 1C, Proposition 1D, and Proposition 1E, all provide money already counted in the February budget deal, between $19 billion and $22 billion. Accordingly, the failure of the four measures could mean lawmakers would be forced to find replacement money somewhere else, say by raising additional taxes. (The existing deal, by the way, also includes a tax increase.)

But outside of existing law -- that's the $40 billion deal referenced above -- there's nothing in the six measures that makes it any harder to raise taxes for future budget problems. And as we all know, that's already pretty tough, taking a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature.

And, lest we forget, the winter budget agreement appears to already be insufficient, with projections that the agreement's revenue projections are already off by $8 billion.

This is unlikely to be the only TV ad, as the governor and his allies have amassed the largest war chest of anyone involved in the May 19 election. As such, consider this ad to be Act I... where the proponents attempt to frame the debate.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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