Paying for the Tax Measure Qualification

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Governor Jerry Brown completed a deal with the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign to launch a compromise initiative for the ballot while both sides say they intend to continue working on qualifying their original initiatives raising the question: where’s the money going to come from?

It takes well over a million dollars to qualify an initiative with the full complement of 150-days the constitution allows for signature gathering. It will cost multiple millions to try and qualify a measure in approximately one-third that time, which is about all the time the proponents of the new measure will have now that they have the title and summary back. (See Greg Lucas’s explanation of the qualifying time period the governor’s new initiative has in California’s Capitol here. Note that Lucas didn’t anticipate the title and summary would come back in an astonishing two days!)

It was expected that the CFT and Courage Campaign would stop collecting signatures for the millionaire’s tax and put resources behind the compromise initiative.

However, the Courage Campaign announced that it would continue to collect signatures for the millionaire’s tax at the same time supporting the compromise measure. Says Courage Campaign president Rick Jacobs, “We’ll stop once we see the other measure is on the street, and funding for signature gathering is significant.”

Sounds a little like Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” approach.

If the CFT and Courage Campaign insist on continuing to spend money qualifying the millionaire’s tax and also offer to aid the compromise tax initiative then the groups must be wealthier than anyone thought.

The same funding problem faces the governor who must raise funds for signature gathering for two measures. He wants to make sure his measure gathers enough signatures in time to make the November ballot just in case the compromise initiative cannot gather the necessary signatures in time to qualify for November.

Brown has had some success raising funds from the business community for his first measure but that revenue source could be choked back because of opposition within some in the business world to the compromise.

So where is all this money coming from?

Proponents will claim a network of groups and associations made up of many members that can gather signatures without paying for them. While that’s true co-ordination of such an effort in such a short time span will be difficult and may include certain costs.

Amassing the necessary million or so signatures for a constitutional amendment in a short time frame will not be cheap. The cost of signatures from professional signature gatherers rises dramatically the less time there is to qualify a measure for the ballot. There are a number of measures seeking signatures besides the tax initiatives. That tends to increase the cost. Getting a specific petition to the top of the pile a signature gatherer is carrying requires a premium.

Signatures on the compromise plan could run as high as $5 or $6 a piece toward crunch time.

One obvious place from which money will flow is the California Teachers Association. While CTA had endorsed the governor’s original plan, they had not made big investments. Now they may be ready to commit. Since the association automatically takes political donations from members’ paycheck, they have a reserve that can be used to finance the compromise measure.

An expensive effort to qualify the compromise measure while both the governor and millionaire tax proponents are still spending on their proposals will bring delight to the signature gathering fraternity but could mean the campaign fund to pass the new measure if its on the ballot will start off empty.

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