Legislative Democrats are pushing a late-hour amendment to give Gov. Jerry Brown a leg up with his November ballot initiative to raise taxes, tweaking the Elections Code to afford Brown's measure a prominent position on the ballot.
In an amendment to a budget trailer bill, Senate Democrats propose language pushing constitutional amendments proposed by voter initiative, such as Brown's, to second on the ballot, right below bond measures. If lawmakers move the water bond scheduled for Nov. 6 to a later ballot -- as many believe they will -- Brown's tax increase measure would be guaranteed top billing.
That placement is key for a few reasons. (1) There will be around a dozen measures on the November ballot and the conventional wisdom is that higher placement is better placement. (2) A rival tax hike measure that will also be on the ballot in November isn't in the form a constitutional amendment, which theoretically gives Brown's proposal a leg up (if two mutually exclusive proposals are on the same California ballot, the one that gets more votes prevails, even if both receive a majority).
As I noted in a recent piece for City Journal California, Brown's tax hike proposal boasts the support of many of California's powerful unions, including the public sector's 800-pound gorilla, the California Teachers Association. Yet if this attempt to cultivate the most marginal of political advantages is representative of the confidence level of Brown and his associates, they know that raw political power may not translate into votes in November.
Californians have a long, proud anti-tax history, which is unlikely to be undone by something as trivial as ballot placement. Let's hope that defeating Brown's proposal -- which would give the Golden State the highest income and sales taxes in the country -- will be the next chapter of that story.