THE SKY IS FALLING, PART II
The state Democratic Party — in the persons of Chairman Art Torres, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez — added its official blessing to the Proposition 57 campaign this morning, backing the $15 billion bond that would pay off the state's accumulated debt and help plug a hole in balancing next year's budget. Television commercials in support of the measure already are on the air, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is plugging what he calls his "California Recovery Bond" at every opportunity.
To those who were around to watch the Proposition 13 campaign in 1978, there is a gathering sense of deja vu: The entire political, labor and business establishment is trying to lead voters in a direction they're not predisposed to go. On top of that, we're beginning to hear the same sort of Doomsday arguments that were made against Proposition 13 -- that unless Proposition 57 passes, police officers will be laid off, fire stations will close and schoolchildren will be stuffed into classrooms like sardines.
Back then, the public didn't buy those arguments and passed Proposition 13 anyway — and the sky didn't fall. Of course, back then, the state had multibillion-dollar surplus and was able to bail out the local governments, which lost their property tax revenues. In this case, there isn't any sugar daddy around to step in and pay California's bills if voters say no to borrowing the money.
The bond's establishment supporters must perform a delicate dance over the next three weeks — somehow persuading voters that the borrowing is a necessary step toward moving California forward, without overplaying their hand by threatening and trying to frighten voters with a vision of doom. California voters have shown they don't like being bullied, and they aren't inclined to believe claims that the sky will fall.