Special election results: Voters reject most measures, deny elected officials raises during deficit years | SierraSun.com

Special election results: Voters reject most measures, deny elected officials raises during deficit years

LOS ANGELES ” California’s seemingly endless fiscal problems were back in the spotlight Tuesday as voters were being asked to decide a complex slate of ballot propositions designed to keep the state from sliding further toward fiscal calamity.

A ballot that confused many voters, frustration with lawmakers over the state’s persistent budget deficits and a recession-weary electorate facing rising unemployment and higher taxes spelled trouble for the ballot measures.

Early returns mirrored recent polls that showed voters were inclined to reject the five propositions directly related to budget matters. The one measure they approved was Proposition 1F, which will prohibit raises to lawmakers and other state elected officials during deficit years.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” said Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, chairwoman of the Assembly Budget Committee. “But I think the voters are sending a message that they believe the budget is the job of the governor and Legislature. We probably need to go back and do our job.”

The special election ballot also included races for a congressional seat and a state Senate seat, both in Southern California. East of downtown Los Angeles, voters were deciding who would fill the seat vacated by U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, with two Democrats locked in a tight race.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger missed Election Day in California but cast a mail-in ballot before leaving for the nation’s capital, where he joined a White House announcement on new vehicle fuel-efficiency standards.

The Republican governor spent part of the day talking to members of California’s congressional delegation, bracing them for the prospect of additional spending cuts if the propositions failed.

Laying off thousands of state employees, reducing the school year by seven days and cutting health care services for tens of thousands of low-income children are among the options. California will need a waiver from the federal government allowing it to make some of those cuts without jeopardizing money from the stimulus package.

Despite the doomsday predictions, California voters largely tuned out, illustrated by the trickle at polling places throughout the state. Local election officials projected that about a third of the state’s 17.1 million registered voters would cast ballots, roughly half of whom were expected to do so through mail-in ballots.

Sentiment at polling stations throughout the state was a mix of anger toward politicians and resignation that the state would continue to face financial turmoil no matter the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.

Schwarzenegger said last week that the state’s deficit would be $15.4 billion in the coming fiscal year even if voters approved the propositions. It would grow by nearly $6 billion if they did not.

Yvonne Frazier decided to vote for every proposition except one that would transfer money from a fund dedicated to helping the mentally ill. The grant writer from San Francisco saw it as the only way to balance the state’s budget.

“I wasn’t real happy about it, but what are going to do?” she said. “It’s a vote out of desperation.”

Other voters used the ballot to express their anger over lawmakers’ inability to solve California’s budget problems on their own.

Los Angeles voter Rex Bailey, 52, said he was tired of the Legislature’s overdue state budgets and the state’s financial crises.

“I wanted to vote no on every proposition and send a signal to our politicians that they need to get it together,” Bailey said while voting at St. Mary of the Angels Anglican Church in Los Angeles.

Another voter at the same polling place, 31-year-old Joshua Mack, also rejected the measures.

“The state’s in a colossal mess and these things aren’t the way to fix it,” he said.

The six propositions are a mixture of reforms, higher taxes, borrowing and funding shifts that will determine the severity of the coming year’s budget cuts.

The measure with the greatest immediate effect is Proposition 1C, which would authorize the state to borrow $5 billion and repay it ” with interest ” with future revenue from the state lottery.

Propositions 1D and 1E, which would borrow from child development and mental health programs, would inject about $900 million into the state’s general fund if passed.

Schwarzenegger and lawmakers called the special election in February as part of a plan to solve a $42 billion deficit that had been projected through mid-2010. Their budget package also included $15 billion in cuts and $12 billion in higher sales, income and vehicle taxes.

The centerpiece measure on Tuesday’s ballot is Proposition 1A, which would create a state spending cap and beef up the state’s rainy day fund. If passed, it also would trigger a continuation of the tax hikes for an extra one or two years.

It generated the most opposition, uniting anti-tax groups and state employee unions that typically are odds with each other.

Proposition 1B would restore more than $9 billion for education funding but would take effect only if 1A passed.

Like many voters, Ken Small, a 59-year-old elder care consultant, said the ballot propositions were confusing.

“I think we’re all frustrated,” he said as he voted at an elementary school in the Sacramento suburb of Antelope.

Whatever the outcome Tuesday, Schwarzenegger and lawmakers will face a multibillion dollar deficit in the fiscal year that begins in July. They were scheduled to meet Wednesday to begin discussing their options.

Proposition 1A-Rainy Day Fund

17,393 of 17,393 precincts – 100 percent

Yes, 1,327,400 – 34 percent

x-No, 2,555,519 – 66 percent

Proposition 1B-Education Funding

17,393 of 17,393 precincts – 100 percent

Yes, 1,452,535 – 37 percent

x-No, 2,421,906 – 63 percent

Proposition 1C-Modernize Lottery

17,393 of 17,393 precincts – 100 percent

Yes, 1,368,222 – 35 percent

x-No, 2,493,770 – 65 percent

Proposition 1D-Child Services Funding

17,393 of 17,393 precincts – 100 percent

Yes, 1,324,252 – 34 percent

x-No, 2,536,657 – 66 percent

Proposition 1E-Mental Health Budget

17,393 of 17,393 precincts – 100 percent

Yes, 1,292,437 – 34 percent

x-No, 2,549,361 – 66 percent

Proposition 1F-Elected Official Salaries

17,393 of 17,393 precincts – 100 percent

x-Yes, 2,859,122 – 74 percent

No, 1,010,457 – 26 percent

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