Special election fails to inspire state voters

By: SAMANTHA YOUNG Associated Press Writer
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Foreclosures, pink slips, higher taxes. An unending run of grim economic news put California voters in a foul mood before Tuesday’s special election. Add in a complex set of ballot propositions and rising distrust of Sacramento politicians, and the election shaped up as a replay of 2005, when voters rejected every measure on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election ballot. Voters ignored the governor’s warnings that the budget deficit will be $21.3 billion if they didn’t support the propositions — but $15 billion if they approve them. They rejected all five of the budget-related measures on the special election ballot. “What Sacramento paints as a solution, voters outside of the capitol only see as dysfunction,” said David McCuan, an associate professor of political science at Sonoma State University. Schwarzenegger and lawmakers called the special election as part of a February budget agreement to close a $42 billion deficit through the middle of next year. The measures would have created a state spending cap, extended a series of tax increases, repaid education funding, authorized borrowing from future lottery proceeds and transferred money from children’s and mental health programs to the state’s general fund. The only one of the six measures to win approval was Proposition 1F, which will prohibit pay raises to state elected officials during deficit years. The special election was meant to improve the state’s struggling finances, but a deepening recession continues to inflate the state’s deficit, as tax revenue has dropped more than expected. Even the higher sales, income and vehicle taxes enacted earlier this year has not been enough. “I am extremely disappointed with the Democratic leadership on the state level,” said Tim Green, 48, a San Francisco resident who voted against every measure. “This is one giant scam.” The governor and lawmakers have warned of deep cuts if voters rejected the measures but also have said some cuts are inevitable. But, it appeared most voters didn’t want to weigh in on the state’s budget troubles. California’s registrars had been predicting a low turnout in what is the 12th statewide election since 2002. Only 14 percent, or about 2.4 million, of Californians who vote by mail had cast their ballots before election day, according to tallies reported by the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials. “This is a statewide election in May. We’ve never had one before,” said Joe Holland, Santa Barbara County registrar of voters. “I think in general people were not interested in voting in this election. It didn’t generate a lot of excitement.” Chris Almanza, 55, of Sacramento was among those who chose not to vote, in part because he was angry and frustrated at state lawmakers. “I’m not going to vote because I don’t think it’s going to matter,” Almanza said. Ray and Dorothy Ille, who voted Tuesday in Roseville, said lawmakers should have avoided a special election and not subjected voters to another round of budget-related questions. “My feeling is they should have taken care of it themselves,” said Ray Ille, who, like his wife, is 78.