Some Initiatives Flush With Cash, Others Bare

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It's by no means a perfect way to measure the eventual outcome at the polls, but money often talks loudest in campaigns for or against ballot measures in California. And at this juncture, the money recorded in publicly filed fundraising reports has some interesting things to say.

In a nutshell: tobacco is king... and Governor Jerry Brown's dialing for dollars is paying off.

First, a look at the two initiatives on the June 5 statewide primary ballot. Neither has received much attention -- in part, perhaps, because of all the focus on the looming November initiative war.

When it comes to money, one June campaign stands out: opposition to the Proposition 29 tobacco tax increase.

Prop 29 seeks to add $1 in taxes to each pack of cigarettes sold in California, with the money (backers estimate $700 million a year) earmarked for cancer research. As you might expect, the battle lines here are drawn largely between anti-smoking groups and Big Tobacco.

The main campaign in support of Prop 29 has had only one significant contributions so far in 2012, a $1.5 million check from cycling champion Lance Armstrong. The campaign reported less than $250,000 in cash at the end of 2011, and will clearly need more big bucks like those from Armstrong... as the anti-Prop 29 campaign has come in with guns blazing. In just the first eight weeks of 2012, the campaign collected $12 million -- most of which came from two large checks, one from Altria/Philip Morris ($7 million) and one from R.J. Reynolds ($3 million).

The only other initiative on the June ballot (thanks, in part, to last fall's controversial decision to boot all pending measures to November) is Proposition 28, the long-debated modification to the state's term limits law for members of the Legislature. If approved by voters, future legislators would be allowed to serve up to 12 years in either the Assembly or Senate -- thus eliminating the current practice of politicians jumping from one chamber or the other and get a full 14 years of service under the Capitol dome.

As of now, the Prop 28 campaign has an empty gas tank. Fundraising has largely been dormant since its backers missed their original target of the November 2010 ballot campaign records show only about $11,000 in cash on hand at the end of 2011. But Democratic consultant Douglas Herman, who's working on the campaign, says fundraising efforts are underway and may include some of the groups that have been talking about government reform in recent years. Official records don't show an opposition campaign committee as of now, though backers of the existing term limits law are unlikely to let voters consider Prop 28 without a rebuttal.

The real money moves, though, are on the tax increase initiatives targeted for the November 6 ballot. The most active fundraiser, perhaps not surprisingly, is Governor Brown. This morning, his campaign for a temporary sales/income tax increase reported some $632,000 in new donations, bringing the total to date close to $3.5 million. Labor unions and Indian gaming tribes continue to dominate the cash reports, and Brown's dialing for dollars has netted an average of $45,000 a day. That will no doubt need to increase to run a full fall campaign.

By comparison, the campaign to qualify a millionaire's tax for the November ballot has raised $915,000 with almost all of the money coming from the California Federation of Teachers, whose union leaders have been getting a lot of pressure by Brown and others to step aside... something that certainly would have been unpopular at Monday's big higher education protest at the Capitol.

The other income tax initiative, written and championed by civil rights attorney Molly Munger, won't need to be watched for whether it has the resources to get on the ballot... because it does, thanks to Munger herself. The wealthy Pasadena activist has pledged to spend "whatever it takes" to not only gather voter signatures on her initiative, but to run the fall campaign itself.

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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.
  • Deb McCurdy

     The Molly Munger/PTA initiative, “Our Children, Our Future”, is the only one that funnels money directly to school sites and mandates parent and community input re how the money should be spent.  Local control is the only way to go.  Any initiative that gets money to the schools directly and avoids the black hole that is Sacramento gets my vote.  PTA lobbying for our kids –  for free  — for 115 years.

    Today, our state ranks 47th nationally in what we invest to educate each student. We have the largest class sizes in America. Over the last three years, more than $20 billion has been cut from California schools and over 40,000 educators have been laid off. We are shortchanging our early childhood development programs, which are some of the best educational investments we can make. Our underfunded public preschool programs serve only 40 percent of eligible 3 and 4 year olds, and only five percent of very low-income infants and toddlers have access to early childhood programs.

    “Our Children, Our Future” asks Californians to join together to invest in our children and our schools because we all share in the benefits of better schools and a better-educated workforce. Our Children, Our Future will also reduce the cost of education bonds to help end the state deficit and protect our children and schools from further budget cuts.

    The measure will raise $10 to $11 billion annually in new revenue through a sliding scale income tax increase that varies with taxpayers’ ability to pay. For couples, the increases range from 4/10ths of 1% on incomes after all deductions under $35,000 to 2.2% for couples with income after all deductions over $5 million. Couples would pay nothing on the first $15,000 of their income after all deductions, and existing  tax credits will offset increases for most couples with income after all deductions of $40,000 or less. A couple earning $75,000 in income after all deductions would pay an additional $428 each year, while a couple earning $1.5 million after all deductions would pay $27,266 more.

    The money will be placed in a separate trust fund that can only be spent as authorized by the provisions of the Act. The Governor and Legislature are prohibited from using the money.  It cannot be used to increase current teacher salaries, but can be used to hire additional teachers, i.e., P.E.  and staff, i.e., school nurses and to support programs that have been lost, i.e., the arts.

    No more than 1% of money raised by the The Molly Munger PTA “Our Children, Our Future” initiative will go towards administrative costs —  mandated.  The initiative will raise $10 billion for schools per year for twelve years.  Every child in the state will benefit. The money goes into a trust and does not pass through Sacramento.  Parent, teacher, community input re how money will be spent at each school site is mandated as well.   At this point in time, CA would need to spend an additional $60,000 a year, per classroom, just to catch up to the national average — that is a fact.  CA has the highest ratios of students to teachers, students to counselors, students to administrator in the country — that is a fact. We are shortchanging all of our kids and have been for many years.

    PTA, the largest volunteer organization lobbying for children, supports “Our Children, Our Future”.  PTA has been in the trenches advocating for kids — for free — for 115 years —  my vote goes with them.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent comparison on initiatives and dollars. Proposition 28 will cause a pinball effect in 2014 as it relates to county,state and federal elections that upcoming year. You should call it redistricting 2.