Labor, peoples groups cool to Arnolds initiatives

As California gears up for the state’s Nov. 8 initiatives-only special election, poll figures show likely voters opposing two of the three ballot measures backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A Field Poll last week showed 42 percent opposed and only 35 percent supported a constitutional amendment mandating spending cuts when outlays exceed income and giving the governor — a staunch opponent of new taxes — extensive control over the state budget.

“Any time you have a spending cap, it’s very dangerous because it results in a lot of cuts to social programs,” state NAACP President Alice Huffman said in a telephone interview. “The only thing one can predict is that our communities and the programs of special importance to our people will be hurt the most.”

Huffman said that as a participant in the 30,000-strong labor and community protest May 25 against Schwarzenegger’s anti-people policies, the NAACP urged the governor to close corporate tax loopholes so health and MediCal spending would not have to be cut. But, she said, “He totally ignores us and does not respond to our letters.” The state NAACP will map its strategy at a special executive board telephone meeting this month, she said.

Robin Swanson of the labor and community Alliance for a Better California (ABC) pointed out that besides causing further cuts to health and education, a budget cap mandating cuts would put further pressure on counties and cities, and would “devastate” fire and police services.

Swanson said in its summer program of rallies, media work, and speaker training, ABC will also campaign for two ballot measures it is backing — one to re-regulate electricity, and the other by the broad Health Access coalition for drug discounts with penalties for pharmaceutical firms that refuse to participate.

The Field Poll also showed likely voters opposing, by 46-35 percent, Schwarzenegger’s proposal to shift the redistricting process from the Legislature to a panel of retired judges.

A third measure, to lengthen to five years the time before teachers can obtain tenure and to weaken their employment security, started out favored by 61 percent of likely voters.

A fourth initiative, not openly supported by the governor, but part of the overall anti-worker campaign by Schwarzenegger and his supporters, would force public workers’ unions to obtain annual permission from each member to use a portion of dues for political action. The misnamed “paycheck protection” act initially had 57 percent support, but a similar measure that started ahead in 1998 wound up losing substantially.

“Big business already outspends working people in the political process,” the California Labor Federation pointed out on its web site. What it called the “paycheck deception” measure “would make the playing field even more uneven,” the federation said. “Corporations could continue to spend freely while public sector unions would face major barriers to participating in the political process.”