With California’s statewide top-of-ticket races stacking up as weak-challenger romps, attention – and spending – turns to seven ballot measures, which taken together may well add up to the costliest state election ever.
Experts say this could be the year that election-related spending tops $1 billion – a figure more in line with a presidential campaign. But campaign spending is an arms race no one can step back from, even though bigger spenders don’t always succeed.
Prop. 1 may speak most directly to this political moment, but it’s unlikely to be a major driver of campaign spending – unlike the gaming measures.
“You have to have enough money to buy a ticket to a game,” said political strategist Michael Wagaman, “but that doesn’t guarantee your team will win.”
Proposition 1 is a direct response to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which for a half century guaranteed the right to abortion.
The Legislature last month voted overwhelmingly to place the measure, SCA 10, on the ballot. It would enshrine reproductive rights in the state Constitution.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leaders of both legislative houses will urge passage of the measure. The California Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes it.
While Proposition 1 may speak most directly to this political moment, it’s unlikely to be a major driver of campaign spending – unlike the next two measures.
Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 are gambling measures that have already amassed combined war chests of nearly a quarter billion dollars, and promise to be the most visible contest of the cycle.
Proposition 26 expands gaming opportunities for federally recognized Native American tribes. It would allow in-person sports wagering, restricted to tribal casinos and a handful of race tracks. It also would allow more table games in tribal casinos.
Backers have promised a $100 million effort. Card clubs, which would be sidelined if the initiative passes, have dedicated more than $40 million to defeat it.
Prop. 28 would dedicate 1 percent of public school funding for arts and music education for K-12 students.
Proposition 27, the other gambling measure with a $100 million warchest, would legalize online and mobile sports wagering for those 21 and older. Backed by wagering platforms like FanDuel and DraftKings, it follows successful efforts to legalize online gambling in other states. While the measure would limit operations to “federally recognized Indian tribes and eligible businesses that contract with them,” gamblers would be able to place their bets from anywhere.
Proposition 27 would dedicate a portion of tax revenue to unspecified homelessness programs and a smaller share to the state’s non-gaming tribes.
Proposition 28 would dedicate 1 percent of public school funding for arts and music education for K-12 students. It also would ensure that a “greater proportion of the funds” go to schools serving more economically disadvantaged students and would not exclude charter schools.
The measure is backed by prominent educators and humanitarians. They raised more than $7 million. There is no apparent fundraising opposition, but The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board argued that single-issue set asides make it more difficult to balance the state budget during economic down times.
Proposition 29 is the latest effort to get voters to make staffing decisions for kidney dialysis clinics. The measure would require a physician, nurse practitioner, or experienced physician assistant on site during treatment at outpatient kidney dialysis clinics.
Prop. 30 is a millionaire’s tax that would subsidize electric cars and charging stations.
It would also would increase state oversight of the industry by, among other things, requiring clinics to report dialysis-related infection data to the state, and to disclose a clinic’s ownership to its clients. And it prohibits clinics from refusing uninsured patients.
It is the third such measure since 2018. Service Employee International Union-United Healthcare West is bankrolling the initiative, and by the end of March had contributed $3.5 million.
During the same period, dialysis providers DaVita and Fresenius had contributed $1.1 million each to defeat the measure.
Proposition 30 is a millionaire’s tax that would subsidize electric cars and charging stations.
The LAO notes that increasing the electric fleet will reduce the number of motorists who buy gas.
It would increase the tax rate on personal income over $2 million by 1.75 percent. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates the tax yield somewhere between $3 billion and $4.5 billion a year.
Nearly half of that money (45 percent) would go to rebates and other incentives for zero-emission vehicles. About a third (35 percent) would pay for charging stations, with at least half of this funding directed to low-income households and communities. The final 20 percent would be for wildfire prevention and suppression programs.
The LAO notes that increasing the electric fleet will reduce the number of motorists who buy gas, which will reduce the amount of gas tax money available for road maintenance and repair.
The main supporter of the measure, ride-hailing company Lyft, has put $8 million toward passage.
Proposition 31 is a referendum to overturn a smoking regulation passed two years ago.
Tobacco companies want voters to repeal a state law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products. Proposition 31 would blot out the bill passed two years ago, AB 793, which reduces tobacco companies’ product lines.
Specifically, AB 793 prohibits tobacco products with the taste or smell of “any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, menthol, mint, wintergreen, herb, or spice.”
RJ Reynolds and Phillip Morris have contributed a combined $20 million for the campaign to overturn the law.
On the other side – those who want to keep the ban in place – the big contributions have come from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, at about $1 million each. State Sen. Jerry Hill, author of the bill that enacted the ban, has given about $50,000 from a campaign account.
Voters can be confused by referendums, since they vote no if they support the point of the measure, which is to repeal the law. They vote yes if they oppose the point of the measure and want to keep the law. At first blush, it seems backwards, since a yes, on other ballot measures, signifies support for the measure, while with referendums, a yes vote signifies support for the existing law at issue.
Election Day is Nov. 8.