Ballot Guerrilla War

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Did anyone notice the guerrilla war that broke out last week?

No, it wasn’t a coup d’etat in some tropical backwater. In fact, the first shots were fired on the website of the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

The Ballot Wars have begun again, more or less on schedule.

To no-one’s surprise, the California Teacher’s Association last month proposed a ballot initiative to re-enact the Proposition 30 income tax hikes for another 12 years (albeit with a twist to exempt the new revenues from the Proposition 2 rainy day reserve). The CTA measure continues to deposit the new taxes into the state’s General Fund, and most of the money will be spent on public schools.

Voters approved the original version of this proposal as Proposition 30 in 2012, by a margin of 55% to 45%.

Somewhat to the surprise of the political cognoscenti, a coalition of California hospitals and the hospital workers union soon thereafter proposed an initiative that would go one better: increase income taxes even higher for even longer, and distribute the money to schools and to health care programs.

Uh-oh. Two measures on the same ballot competing for the same pot of dough? Mobilizing opposition and confusing voters? Facing a threat to their hegemony, the teachers union declared, “This means war!”

Actually, that’s my rough translation of their actions last week. Lawyers for CTA submitted three ballot measure proposals that directly attack California hospitals, hitting executive pay, tax exempt status, and government reimbursements.

If this was a naval engagement, these ballot proposals were three shots across the bow of the Good Ship CaliforniaHospital.

The next move in this engagement is on the health care side. But wait … there’s more.

Earlier this year a group of southern California nonprofit charities launched a bid to raise statewide property taxes by billions to pay for a variety of health care, early education and economic development programs. Though not itself a split roll property tax, the increases would certainly occupy the political space for any current or future property tax hikes. The split roll is another favorite pony in the CTA’s stable.

If I was a sponsor of the “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act,” I’d be on the lookout for a fusillade from the Teachers’ advance guard.

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