Capitol Alert

With so many ballot measures, Jerry Brown ponders further reforms

Gov. Jerry Brown, lamenting the glut of complicated measures on California’s ballot, suggested Tuesday that lawmakers may want to revisit a change that shifted most propositions to the fall election.

“I had a problem just figuring out those damn propositions,” Brown said of the 17 statewide ballot measures shortly after dropping off his ballot in downtown Sacramento. “Some of them are bordering on incomprehensible…I still have some serious questions even this morning.”

Part of the reason for Tuesday’s crowded ballot was a 2011 bill approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed by Brown that shifted voter-qualified measures from primary ballots onto general election ballots. Reminded of the law and its likely effects, Brown said “maybe we ought to think about that.”

Yet he cautioned that with enough money, any group or wealthy resident can seemingly “put anything on the ballot.” The presidential election year, when voter turnout is higher, also serves as a major enticement for interest groups, particularly those seeking to raise taxes.

Joined by his dog Sutter at the Boys and Girls Club, Brown refused to say how he voted on the temporary income tax increase on wealthy filers, Proposition 55, which would extend higher income taxes contained in Proposition 30, the 2012 tax measure Brown championed.

“It’s a secret ballot,” Brown said, though he did use the opportunity to again advocate a “no” vote on Proposition 53, which would require a public vote on revenue bonds of more than $2 billion dollars, and thus could imperil Brown-backed Delta water tunnel and bullet train projects.

“The ‘no’ side is gaining on 53 the last week,” said Brown, who is starring in TV ads against the measure. “Whether it will be enough, it depends on how many people maybe see this and say, ‘Boy, I better stop that 53. It’s too dangerous.’”

Californians are considering a handful of spending measures and tax hikes, including Proposition 56, a $2-per-pack increase in the state’s tobacco levy. Both Propositions 55 and 56 were leading in polls taken days ahead of the elections. Still, Brown, reflecting on the tenures of past governors, including himself, said it would be unwise to draw the conclusion that California has taken a permanent turn to the left.

“Make no mistake, Californians don’t like taxes that much,” he warned. “And they are always ready to throw the bums out. So any time you think California is going left, watch out because they are just about to turn right in the next year or two.

“I am always wary about saying ‘This is the trend …’he added. “So, what comes next? Only a fool would hazard a guess.”

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Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago