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California's voters get next say in budget battles

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In a speech March 12 before the Commonwealth Club of California, the governor characterized his package of six ballot measures as "the agreement that ends the current budget deficit." He added that it also "changes our approach to budgets in the future."

If Schwarzenegger is unable to persuade voters to pass the measures, says Mr. Quinn, "I am absolutely convinced that the state will go into bankruptcy, like New York did in the 1970s."

It's expected that voters will approve all six initiatives or reject them all, because their provisions are closely linked, say Quinn and others.

Two powerful groups have already come out against them.

One is the League of Women Voters of California, which has long pushed for an overhaul of the budget process. League President Janis Hirohama has called the measures "hurriedly drafted" and said they "will only make our fiscal situation worse."

Another is the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a California-based taxpayers' rights group. Executive Director Kris Vosburgh says the organization is taking a position against only one of the measures, Proposition 1A, because it extends a tax increase from two years to four.

"Prop. 1A dwarfs all the others in importance," Mr. Vosburgh says. "The rest are merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."

The state's revenue problems are exacerbated by the flight of residents and businesses from California's already-too-high taxes, he says. The state currently ranks sixth in the nation in terms of the share of personal income that goes to taxes, and Proposition 1A would move the state to first place, Vosburgh says.

"We are losing productive people and businesses, which means less revenue for the state," he says. "This will only compound the problem."

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