In true David versus Goliath fashion, the opponents of Proposition 1A are the underdogs in the political battle which will culminate on May 19th. There is little doubt that they will be outspent by a margin of at least 15 to 1. And they face a well organized campaign machine financed by the two giants of California politics: the California Teachers Association and Governor Schwarzenegger's California Dream Team.
Because it is being sold as budget reform, Proposition 1A should be a slam dunk with voters. Indeed, in the last two weeks of the campaign, proponents will inundate the airwaves and voters' mailboxes with the message that the proposal will bring real reform to California's dysfunctional budget process by moderating spending in boom years.
In actuality, Prop. 1A won't work as advertised. Spending can be increased in any one year the amount the Legislature and the governor are willing to raise taxes.
And Prop. 1A is a tax increase. The taxes Sacramento politicians just approved that make Californians the heaviest burdened taxpayers in the nation, are scheduled to expire in two years. Prop. 1A extends these taxes for an additional two years. When caught ignoring the issue, backers are cued to respond that it is just a tax extension, but its actual impact is to more than double the amount in taxes Californians are scheduled to pay, an amount that could cost a typical family thousands of dollars.
Proposition 1A's complexity, both within itself and its impact on other pieces of the budget puzzle, has presented a challenge to its backers and an opportunity for its opponents. That complexity, coupled with the high level of cynicism and mistrust of political leadership, could very well sink the measure, not withstanding the tsunami of political ads we are about to hear in the next 15 days telling us that Prop 1A is more important that the Bill of Rights.
But in their effort to try to present a clear, simple message for Proposition 1A, its Goliath backers have given their David opponents some great rocks to put in their slings. Most notable was Governor Schwarzenegger's comment about Prop. 1A to Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton, "It's already complicated as it is but the more you write about how complicated it is, the more complicated you make the complication." This ranks right up there with a famous presidential quote, "It depends on what the definition of 'is' is" -- also used to avoid being forthcoming.
Better yet, Steve Maviglio, former press secretary to Gov. Davis and spinmeister for the left, is more honest in his recent column, "Top 10 Reasons Why Progressives Should Support Prop 1A." Among his justifications for a yes vote are, "There are no restrictions on spending in typical years," "Increases annual spending by $1.5 billion," and "Allows for all revenues from new tax increases to be appropriated."
And therein lies the true challenge for the proponents. One major backer, the Governor, is claiming that Proposition 1A will bring real spending discipline to Sacramento. The other major backer, the teachers union, is claiming that Proposition 1A is no big deal as budget reform but is needed to make sure education spending can continue as if California still had a robust economy.
Complexity and inconsistency. David, it seems, has plenty of stones to hurl against Goliath.
Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization -- which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers' rights.