The Initiative That Has Most to Lose From Brown’s Leap

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The rapid rise of Gov. Jerry Brown’s initiative up the ballot, via miracles and trailer bills, has left other initiatives in the dust. But we might be missing the real story in this tale.

Most of the talk has been about the impact on Brown’s tax competitors – Molly Munger’s temporary income tax for schools and Tom Steyer’s change in the corporate tax. Those initiatives should have qualified before Brown’s – and been listed higher on the ballot – instead, it looks like they’ll be down at Propositions 39 and 40, while Brown will be at Prop 31, assuming the trailer bill becomes law.

But the real news in this case is about the Stop Special Interest Money Initiative, more commonly known in many circles as the paycheck protection initiative.

Before Brown’s leap, paycheck protection had an inside position for the top spot on the ballot. Assuming that the water bond is removed from the ballot, paycheck would have been first. Paycheck’s pole position is actually a result of a Brown action – his signing a bill that moved all initiatives from “primary” elections to the fall.

But via this trailer bill to advance constitutional amendments to the top of the ballot, Brown’s measure would be first (after the water bond), with paycheck protection second. They’d probably be listed as Props 31 and 33 (assuming the water bond becomes Prop 30; California Forward’s budget reform constitutional amendment would be Prop 32). Prop 30 and 32 if the water bond goes away soon.

That would help Brown’s labor backers come with a relatively easy-to-remember campaign: Yes on 31, No on 33. (Heck, they also could run a Yes on 31, No on 32 and 33 campaign – since labor doesn’t care for the California Forward measure, which they see as a spending limit.) This ballot placement also would de-emphasize the competition between Brown and the tax initiatives (and the alternative of “reform” represented by the California Forward initiative), and give this the kind of 99 percent/1 percent framing the left wants to rally people.

Come vote to tax the rich—and then vote to stick it to the rich again as they try to take power from the working man.

Given the way things are developing, this could be an ugly, nasty, bitter two-front campaign over these two initiatives.

And that’s great news. For us journalists.

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