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State voters approve taxes, three strikes reform as Dems close in on legislative supermajorities

By Steven Luo November 7, 2012 No Comments Print Share

California Governor Jerry Brown and state Democrats scored significant victories in Tuesday’s general election, as voters approved Brown’s proposed income and sales tax hike to support education and rejected a measure which would have weakened union influence in politics considerably.

And as of Wednesday morning, Democrats were elected or leading in 28 of the state’s 40 Senate seats and 54 of the 80 Assembly seats — results which, if they hold, would give them two-thirds supermajorities and the power to raise taxes without Republican support for the first time in recent memory.

Voters approve tax hikes, reject union spending restrictions

Propositions 30 and 38 — the dueling education tax measures on Tuesday’s ballot — were among the most hard-fought of the campaign. Wealthy Southern California lawyer Molly Munger poured millions of dollars into the campaign for Prop. 38, which would have raised $10 billion in additional income taxes on all but the lowest-income Californians in order to pay for education spending — even choosing to air attack ads against Prop. 30.

But Gov. Brown’s proposed $6 billion 1/4-cent sales tax hike and income tax increase on high earners prevailed on election night, with 54 percent of voters supporting the measure as of early Wednesday morning, while Munger’s measure was crushed at the polls, drawing just 28 percent support.

After late polls suggested Proposition 30 was in trouble, Brown embarked on an aggressive campaign, criss-crossing the state to make his case that the state needed more revenue to balance its budget and warning of devastating consequences — including an automatic $6 billion cut in this year’s education budget — if the measure failed. Opponents argued that new taxes would hurt the state’s ailing economy and that the state should live within its means.

Voters also overwhelmingly approved Proposition 39, which would require that companies calculate their state tax liability based on their sales in California instead of being able to choose another formula in which the size of the company’s in-state workforce was a factor, by a 60-40 vote. The option to choose between the so-called “single sales factor” and the “three-factor” formula — a provision inserted by Republicans into the 2009 state budget deal which Prop. 39 supporters called a “tax on jobs” — was estimated to be costing the state roughly $1 billion a year.

Meanwhile, just 44 percent of the state’s voters backed Proposition 32, which would have prohibited the use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Supporters argued the measure would reduce union and corporate influence in politics, but labor unions — who are the only significant political groups funded by payroll deductions — fiercely opposed the measure, calling it a ploy by “special interests” to eliminate their political opposition.

Results give mixed verdict on criminal justice reforms

California voters delivered a mixed verdict on criminal justice reforms on Tuesday’s ballot, rejecting an effort to repeal the death penalty, but backing reform of the state’s “three strikes” sentencing law.

Proposition 34, which would have replaced the death penalty with life sentences without the possibility of parole, was opposed by 53 percent of voters — raising questions about the accuracy of pre-election polling which showed the measure with a small but significant lead. Supporters pointed to the high cost of keeping inmates on Death Row and the possibility of executing innocent prisoners, while opponents argued that excessive appeals are artificially inflating the cost of death sentences and that the death penalty is appropriate for the most heinous crimes.

But voters approved Proposition 36 — which would require that a “third strike” offense triggering an automatic sentence of 25 years to life be a serious or violent felony — by a 60-40 margin. Opponents, including victims’ rights groups and police organizations, argued the measure would result in dangerous criminals going free, but supporters — including San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and his Los Angeles counterpart Steve Cooley — argued the state could not afford to continue to sentence offenders to life for relatively minor felonies.

Voters also overwhelmingly approved the other criminal justice-related measure on the ballot. Proposition 35, which would expand the state’s definition of human trafficking and increase the penalties for those convicted of human trafficking offenses, received the support of more than 80 percent of state voters.

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