After a long, closed-door meeting Tuesday, Assembly Democrats remain divided over the budget-balancing ballot measure at the heart of the May 19 special election, Proposition 1A, which would impose a cap and raise taxes.
“Our caucus had a very long discussion on this,” Assembly Speaker Karen Bass told Capitol Weekly. “There are a number of members who are supportive of 1A, there are several members who are opposed to 1A, and there are many others who are trying to decide. We are working through this and we will have another caucus next week,” she said Tuesday evening.
When the spending cap came up for a vote on the Assembly floor, only three Democrats voted against the measure. Those three Democrats –Warren Furutani, D-Long Beach, Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, and Tony Mendoza, D-Los Angeles, later had their committee chairmanships stripped by Bass. The measure passed off the Assembly floor 74-6.
The Assembly Democratic Caucus – led by the speaker – took formal support positions on Propositions 1B through 1F. The measures include new protections for education funding, up to $5 billion in borrowing against the state lottery and the diversion of funds intended for pre-school programs (Proposition 10) and the mentally ill (Proposition 63) – programs that earlier had been approved by voters.
Putting the disparate measures onto a single ballot makes a difficult political sell, especially one in which a low-turnout is likely. Indeed, the packaging of the pieces of the special election, which reflect a bitter compromise over cuts and tax hikes, is viewed by political experts as the single biggest obstacle to getting the propositions approved.
“I am concerned how they will be packaged and marketed. I do not have a professional opinion on that today, but since the day after this passed, I have been talking to everyone about the importance of this, about the seriousness of the deficit. It (the budget) needs money from the lottery, and Propositions 10 and 63. It is counter-intuitive for many to take money from 10 and 63, and many have objections about the lottery. It takes a lot of explanation,” she said.
“I’m very worried because we had our (Los Angeles) mayoral election and only 15 percent of the electorate turned out,” Bass aid. “We are going to have to work very hard on voter turnout and make sure that voters know that if we don’t pass these measures we are going to have an immediate $6 billion hole, and that’s assuming the revenues are stable.”
But, she added, “I’m hearing that we are going to have a $4 billion dollar (revenue) hole, so if the ballot measures don’t pass, then it becomes $9 billion or $10 billion hole.”