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Voters face fall ballot crowded with issues

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POSTED June 28, 2012 8:40 p.m.

 

 


 

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California voters will be bombarded with major questions on the November ballot about raising their taxes, ending executions and limiting lifetime sentences for career criminals.

The marquee initiatives that qualified for the ballot by Thursday's deadline are competing tax measures, with one promoted by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to avoid more deep state spending cuts and another by wealthy Los Angeles civil rights attorney Molly Munger to boost education.

Labor unions will wage a high-stakes fight over political contributions, while other measures include a challenge to new political boundaries drawn for state Senate districts, tougher penalties for human sex trafficking, and regulations affecting auto insurance, genetically altered food and state budgeting.

A dozen measures have qualified for the ballot, but the number is likely to drop to 11 next week, when state lawmakers are expected to again postpone an $11 billion water bond. The bond was originally set for a vote in 2010 and is likely to be delayed again until 2014, when legislators think the proposed borrowing might have a better chance with voters.

Brown's tax proposal is likely to top the ballot. It would raise the state sales tax and income tax for incomes over $250,000 a year, with the money going to the state budget, schools and public safety. Munger's competing plan would raise income taxes for nearly all Californians, with most of the money going to public schools.

The heavy load of ballot measures makes it imperative for initiative supporters to get their message out if they are to have a chance, said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College.

"With 12 measures on the ballot there's a lot of confusion, and with confusion voters either don't vote or vote no," Pitney said. "That's the big challenge for all the campaigns, is to cut through the clutter. It's a great time to be a political consultant in California."

The measures will crowd voters' ballots, but are nowhere near a record.

Voters sorted through 48 ballot measures in 1914, according to the secretary of state's office, including 17 initiatives placed there through the signature-gathering process. The remainder were put on the ballot by state legislators nearly a century ago.

The 12 measures currently on this November's ballot are:

— Governor's tax measure: Increases income taxes on a sliding scale on incomes over $250,000 a year for seven years; increases the state sales tax by a quarter cent for four years. Aids the state's general fund, schools and public safety.

— Munger's tax measure: Increases income taxes for nearly all Californians on a sliding scale for 12 years. Provides some relief to the state budget for four years, but the bulk of the money goes directly for public schools.

— Water bond: Borrows $11 billion for environmental cleanups, water conservation efforts, sewage system upgrades and to explore building at least two dams. Lawmakers expect to postpone this measure until 2014.

— Union dues: Prohibits public and private employee unions, as well as corporations, from using payroll deductions to collect political funds from members.

— State budget: Requires a two-year budget cycle for state government. Bars legislators from increasing spending by more than $25 million without also making spending cuts or identifying new revenue sources in the same amount. Gives the governor more power to act in fiscal emergencies. Requires performance reviews and goals for all state and local governments.

— State Senate: Repeals the new state Senate maps drawn by an independent citizens panel. Senators are running in those new districts this year.

— Business tax: Repeals a 2009 provision that lets multistate companies choose the cheaper of two formulas for calculating their California tax liability: one that considers sales, property and payroll, or a "single-sales" formula based on product sales in California. A portion of the additional $1 billion raised would go for clean-energy projects.

— Death penalty: Abolishes the death penalty and makes life in prison without parole the harshest possible punishment. Converts condemned inmates' death sentences to life prison terms.

— Three-strikes: Allows a life sentence on a third "strike" conviction only when the new conviction is for a serious or violent crime.

— Human trafficking: Increases penalties for human sex trafficking to 15 years to life in prison. Requires that all registered sex offenders disclose to law enforcement the identities they use in online activities like social networking and email.

— Genetically modified foods: Requires mandatory labeling on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.

— Auto insurance: Scales back restrictions that prevent insurance companies from setting auto insurance rates based upon a driver's history of coverage.

 

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