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Dan Schnur

Ballot Initiative spending

Today’s SF Chronicle reports that Proposition 76, the Governor’s budget reform initiative, may be starting to see its financial support being redirected toward other Schwarzenegger ballot priorities.

"Campaign finance reports released last week showed that supporters of Prop. 76, which would give the governor more power over the state budget, had only $7,600 in the bank on Sept. 24, compared with $914,000 for Proposition 75 and $3 million for Proposition 77."  Go to the story here.

Maybe this is just a natural ebb and flow that happens when the same donor base is funding four initiatives. But if this is part of a considered strategy, it’s a smart move. If you’re going to be outspent, it makes sense to target your resources as narrowly as possible. Passing redistricting reform and/or Paycheck Protection is enough for Team Arnold to claim victory, so concentrating their fire on one or both of them increases their chances for winning. Even if the budget initiative loses, Arnold can still legitimately make the case that fairer districts or new rules for union contributions have opened the door for other reforms. And passing either one gives him back his reformer halo heading into re-election.

I know that the Survey USA poll has Prop 75 doing as well as the other two, but so far that seems to be an aberration. If Schwarzenegger’s own polling shows that budget reform is gaining popularity, then maybe it’s worth holding off a little bit before letting it slide away. But the more time and money spent pushing four initiatives, the less there will be at the end for what really needs the resources. Putting off an inevitable decision simply makes it less likely to be successful.

In the meantime, watching those poor people in their campaign commercial trying to sell four different initiatives in thirty seconds is painful. Devoting an entire ad to one argument, rather than slicing it up into four pieces, is a much better way to get through to an audience that’s been inundated from the other side.

That’s not to say that Prop 75 isn’t a good idea: I’ll vote for it. But I can always vote for it (or even better, a cleaner version) again next year. Sometimes half an initiative loaf is better than none.