California voters faced 11 propositions on their general election ballots on Tuesday, ranging from killing the death penalty (defeated) to controlling genetically engineered foods (defeated), to taxing out-of-state corporations to make California even ???greener??? (approved). By and large, California voters made good decisions. But on the big issues ??? Prop. 30 (Gov. Jerry Brown???s massive tax increase, ostensibly to aid schools) and Prop. 32 (to rein in public employee union power by ending automatic and involuntary political dues collections out of the salaries of public employees) — California voters failed miserably.
Governor Brown and his labor cohorts decided early to combine campaigns on his Prop. 30 ??? for a ???yes??? vote ??? and Prop. 32 ??? for a ???no??? vote. This strategy energized and consolidated labor and other big-spending interests who together spent more than $100 million on ???Yes on 30/No on 32.??? Unfortunately, the big money on the other side spent much of its resources in combination, as well, failing to distinguish the issues carefully. It was never clear to conservatives/independents that Prop. 32 would rearrange the political power structure of California and curb union power, which has become the fourth branch of government in California, as underscored by many Democratic leaders themselves. Former Gov. Pete Wilson and former Democrat State Senate leader Gloria Romero did yeoman work with earned media on Prop. 32. But their potential in purchased media was never realized.
Low voter turnout was a very real problem (just over 50 percent of eligible voters turned out, whereas the normal presidential year turnout in California has been over 70 percent). This should have been anticipated because the presidential outcome was never in doubt, and there was no statewide race that was hotly contested. A real precinct-by-precinct ground game was never developed. Hence, a loss by a spread of 12 points or so occurred. (The last ???paycheck protection??? initiative ??? Prop. 75 in 2005 ??? which we fought on its merits as a separate issue ??? lost by a spread of only 6 points, despite being outspent 10-1.
At the final moments of the campaign, an anonymous $11 million contribution from Arizona was received by an independent expenditure committee in California for ???No on 30 ??? Yes on 32.??? This gave Brown and the unions an opportunity to claim that sinister forces were trying to manipulate and influence the California political process. The money should have been returned, but was not.
Just as we have observed in Wisconsin with Scott Walker, the paycheck protection and union power issues are far from over in California. As more California cities declare bankruptcy because of excessive public employee union wage and pension demands, this issue will grow exponentially. And as the teachers??? unions continue to resist education reforms, more parents ??? and grandparents ??? will recognize paycheck protection as essential to begin restoring California as the Golden State.
Lew Uhler is President of the National Tax Limitation Committee and co-author, with Erick Erickson, of ???Red State Uprising: How To Take Back America.??? For more information, visit our website, limittaxes.org.