PROPOSITION 10: Ekes Out Slim Victory
Proposition 10 apparently locked up a victory by the slimmest of margins yesterday, as initiative sponsor Rob Reiner declared victory and the tobacco industry-backed Committee Against Unfair Taxes conceded defeat. The measure, which will raise cigarette prices to fund health and social programs for young children, appears to have eked out a .08% final lead, "one of the narrowest ... victories in state history." Although one third of 850,000 absentee and other late ballots remain to be counted, a spokesperson for the California Secretary of State said as more votes come in, "the more political consultants are able to draw a conclusion." The Los Angeles Times reports that the 50 cent per pack increase on cigarettes will take effect Jan. 1, with higher taxes on snuff and other tobacco products beginning July 1. Reiner predicted that legislation modeled on Prop. 10 would spread to other states (Ingram, 11/12). "I think hopefully it will give other states an impetus to want to follow suit. We've already gotten some inquiries from other states about what can be done in their states and how we did it here. And I think what California will provide is a wonderful model from which other states can work," he said (CNN, "Inside Politics," 11/11).
Follow The Money
The measure, coupled with a likely settlement between the state attorney general and the tobacco industry, is expected to push the average cost of cigarette packs from $2.55 to $3.40, hopefully deterring teens and others from smoking. The San Jose Mercury News reports that 80% of the projected $700 million from the new tax will be meted out to 58 county commissions in proportion to the number of infant births in their county. A new agency known as the California Children and Families First Commission "will divvy up [the remaining] 20% of the revenue, based on a formula that allocates specific amounts to such things as child care, children's health services and discouraging pregnant women from smoking." The county boards will consist of one county supervisor and four to eight other local officials. The commission will consist of seven appointees of the governor, the speaker of the state Assembly and the chair of the state Senate Rules Committee (Johnson, 11/12).
The American Lung Association released a statement saying, "Even though health groups and other supporters of Proposition 10 were outspent by five to one, the American Lung Association is pleased that the public, once again, saw through the deception and lies of the tobacco industry and, instead, supported the measure that will help reduce tobacco use and its relating health costs" (ALA release, 11/11). The American Cancer Society stated, "We salute the hundreds of thousands of California voters who saw through the $30 million tobacco industry campaign of lies and voted for this measure which will reduce smoking in this state" (ACS release, 11/11). Alliance of California Taxpayers and Involved Voters Chair Jane Armstrong "called the new tax regressive" and predicted that a big government bureaucracy would "spend millions without any outside control" (Perine, Wall Street Journal, 11/12). Committee Against Unfair Taxes spokesperson Matt Taggart said that Prop. 10's thin victory margin means "voters have sent a clear message that they are weary of the cynical use of anti-tobacco rhetoric to advance their self-interest causes." He added, "In an election year full of landslides, Proposition 10 narrowly passed by a margin of approximately two votes per precinct out of nearly 8 million votes cast. Rather than providing a mandate ... Proposition 10's very narrow victory shows that voter skepticism remains high toward more taxes and unaccountable government programs" (Mercury News, 11/12). When asked why more voters did not support the measure, CNN political analyst William Schneider said, "I think there were two reasons. First, voters are still suspicious of anything that sounds like taxing and spending, even for a good cause. People suspected that the administration and Congress were just milking the tobacco deal for new revenue, and you know, there was some basis for that suspicion. And second, most people still think of smoking as a discretionary activity, adults should know what they're dong when they take the risk. Supporters of the deal defended it by saying it was targeted at protecting children, which was fine. But the deal ended up looking a whole lot bigger than that" (CNN, "Inside Politics", 11/11).
Money Begets Money
Reiner predicted that the anticipated $700 million windfall could "generate more than $1 billion more in federal matching funds." Robert Fellmeth, director of the Children's Advocacy Institute at UC-San Diego, said, "If it is cleverly done, it could probably be leveraged into close to $2 billion total" (Sweeney, Copley News/San Diego-Union Tribune, 11/12). Reiner reached out to Californians who voted against Prop. 10, saying, "I don't think you were informed as to what this would ultimately do for children of this state. This initiative is as streamlined a public policy initiative as ever was passed in this state. Only 1% goes to administrative costs. Ninety-nine percent is going to programs to help children under five" (Bernstein, Sacramento Bee, 11/12). Click here for previous coverage of Prop. 10.