Propositions Misunderstood, Doomed to Fail?

April 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
California could be staring at a new $6 billion budget shortfall in less than a month.The state will vote on six ballot initiatives designed to patch up the budget holes, but they're not really catching on with voters.

In an exclusive Action News poll, conducted this week by Survey USA, only 59% of Central Valley voters had already cast their ballots or say they're very likely to vote. 41% say they may not vote.

Political analysts say it's easier to rally people against a ballot initiative than for one, but supporters have about four weeks to keep a Band-aid on the budget.

The Valley may have reached a saturation point when it comes to taxes.

A loud crowd denounced taxes at Fresno's tax day tea party. One month earlier, Clovis voters said 'no' to Measure A, which would've raised their sales tax by one cent to help fund firefighters and police.

"That may be the grassroots stepping forward and saying 'we're tired. We're tired of all of it,'" said Clovis Chamber of Commerce president Paul Hinkle.

But now, state ballot initiatives are asking voters to give a little bit more to fix the state budget. The six propositions on the ballot would cost the average family about $1200 a year for the next few years.

If the initiatives don't pass, the state will be immediately staring at a $6 billion budget deficit.

Political analysts say that'll force legislators to make painful cuts. Social services -- like health care and unemployment benefits -- are likely to get hit first. So are state colleges, like Fresno State.

University president Dr. John Welty says students will end up losing out or paying up if the propositions don't pass.

"It could mean additional fees," he said. "It could also mean fewer classes for students."

But with a month to go until the special election, many voters still don't know what the state wants from them.

Our exclusive Action News poll shows that only 18% of voters understand the six propositions on the ballot. 47% don't understand them very well or at all, and that could be a sign they're doomed to fail.

"I see a lot of issues that people really know very little about and when people don't know a lot, they tend to vote no," said political analyst Don Larson.

Our polling also shows all six propositions losing right now, with opposition growing over the last few weeks.

Supporters have recently kicked off an advertising campaign, but even if voters start understanding what the money's for, there's a good chance they won't want it coming out of their pockets.

"People in California want all of those things," said Larson. "They would prefer not to pay for any of them."

Just holding the special election is as much as $80 million across the state. Fresno County alone will spend $1.5 million to hold the special election.

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