Is Proposition 13 on state Democrats’ hit list? 

click to enlarge Score: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is looking forward to possible Democratic supermajorities in the Assembly and state Senate. - AP FILE PHOTO
  • AP File Photo
  • Score: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is looking forward to possible Democratic supermajorities in the Assembly and state Senate.

To borrow a phrase from Whoopi Goldberg’s character in the movie “Ghost”: Proposition 13, you in danger, girl.

Backers of Proposition 32 smacked a beehive, inadvertantly handing the Democratic Party its first supermajority since 1888. The tax increases and constitutional amendments that are certain to follow are the true legacy of the Yes on 32 campaign.

Prop. 32 would have prohibited unions and corporations from giving to candidates’ campaigns and from raising money through automatic deductions — a death knell for the political clout of public employee unions.

Since the signatures necessary to put Prop. 32 on the ballot were submitted Oct. 7, 2011, the measure qualified to be on the ballot for the June 2012 primary. But because primaries tend to draw more conservative voters, Democrats in the Legislature quickly enacted a law to prohibit referendums or ballot initiatives from being voted on in primary elections, which bumped Prop. 32 to the November ballot.

It was the threat of Prop. 32 that mobilized an unprecedented get-out-the-vote campaign that resulted in Democratic Party victories across the state and the defeat of Prop. 32. While the unions supported the Gov. Jerry Brown-backed tax measure Proposition 30, protecting their political clout — which would have prevented the threatened cuts if Prop. 30 didn’t pass — was clearly priority number one. The California Teachers Association only gave $11.4 million to help Prop. 30, but gave $21 million to defeat Prop. 32. All told, unions raised about $70 million to defeat Prop. 32 and only $35 million to pass Prop. 30.

After the election, Labor Federation spokesman Steve Smith wrote, “If measures that attack workers are on the ballot, they will be defeated. And not only will they be defeated, they will drive workers to the polls in record numbers, which has a direct impact on races and measures up and down every ballot across California.”

And affect the other races they did.

While we’re still awaiting the final count, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, announced on Wednesday that if the current election results hold up, Democrats will have a supermajority in both houses. Although three Dems will be leaving soon for other offices, each will likely be replaced by another Democrat. This supermajority will allow them to raise taxes and also put constitutional amendments on the ballot. (But, hey, at least the proposed constitutional amendments can’t be on the ballot in a primary election.)

Long-despised by Democrats, Prop. 13’s limits on taxation —  enshrined in the California Constitution  — are in the crosshairs.

On the issue of further tax increases, Steinberg made exactly no one feel better when he said of the supermajority, “I certainly don’t intend to suggest to my colleagues that the first thing we do with our new powers is to go out and seek to raise more taxes.” So it will be the second thing.

In the end, the Prop. 32-inspired get-out-the-vote effort may mean the rest of us get out the checkbook.

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Melissa Griffin

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