Here we go again.

Powerful and wealthy interests – including billionaire Tom Steyer – want to pursue a very necessary tax increase on cigarettes and other tobacco products. This is a great idea—such taxes add to the cost of cigarettes and discourage their use. And California has far too low a tax, well below the national average. We should be leading the country in taxing tobacco.

But cigarette taxes keep getting compromised by those who propose them. The problem? The tax increases get attached to various other policies and favored spending that complicate the measures, and create avenues for attack and skepticism. And many of these add-ons involve ballot box budgeting.

After the defeat of a tobacco tax with ballot box budgeting three years ago, I begged for another tobacco tax – a clean one without budgeting strings attached. Raise the tax, and let the money go into the state general fund. But no one wants to do that. And the new ballot initiative to raise taxes, filed Oct. 7, repeats the same mistake. It’s an ugly bit of ballot box budgeting designed to shore up the programs favored by the health groups behind the initiative.

The initiative is long and complicated, which is rarely a good idea. And most of that complexity is devoted to its ballot box budgeting.

This new measure promises to backfill funds that might be lost, as tobacco use decreases, from previous initiative taxes approved by voters. It’s also supposed to protect a host of other health funds.

Then 82 percent of what’s left after that goes to a newly established healthcare fund. Then 13 percent goes to tobacco control programs, with 85 percent of that 13 percent going to tobacco control, and the other 15 percent of that 1     3 percent going to toward education programs around tobacco. Follow?

The initiative is mostly statutory but it also locks in a new piece of the already overfull state constitution: a new amendment to make sure that none of the measure’s money ends up in the general fund.

That’s not all the bad governance in this initiative. The tobacco tax hike establishes two new supermajority requirements in a state that is already drunk on such requirements. One would permit changes to parts of the initiative with a 2/3 vote, and the other would require a 4/5 vote to change different parts of the initiative.

Because California doesn’t have enough special supermajority requirements.

By dressing up the tobacco tax in so much bogus reform, the initiative takes a very good idea – higher cigarette taxes – and ruins it with all the usual features of California dysfunctional governance.