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Officials from the reform group California Forward said today that unless deep-pocketed donors come through with pledges for big support, the campaign to qualify a package of their budget reform proposals for the November ballot could be put on ice.

California Forward Co-Chair Robert Hertzberg, a former Democratic leader of the Assembly, said today the group needed to secure a "few hundred thousand dollars" by week's end in order to move forward with an initiative campaign to qualify two budget reform measures, which include lowering the vote requirement for passing a budget from two-thirds to a majority vote.

"We're basically in the final throes of trying to get enough money to be able to put one or two of our measures on the ballot and collect signatures in this next week. If we get enough money, we'll go forward," he said. "We don't want to go out and spend money to get signatures unless we get enough money to actually qualify a measure."

Proponents have raised just about $132,000, according to campaign finance records, of the about $2 million organizers say they need to gather enough signatures to qualify the two measures.

Spokesman Paul Hefner said the effort's leadership council is scheduled to gather for a day-long meeting in the Bay Area Thursday to discuss financing the campaign. As a practical matter, Hefner said, the 694,534 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify each of the two measures for the November ballot would have to be gathered and submitted by mid-May. He said no signatures have been gathered yet "because once you get out there on the streets, you really start burning through the money."

"The leadership council has been very clear that they want to pursue it as long as they practically can," Hefner said. "So I don't know that we will officially be pulling the plug ... but if we don't have the dough, we will probably be letting people know 'Okay, here's how we're going to proceed."

The news that California Forward's campaign to qualify the initiatives for the November ballot is on thin ice comes weeks after another reform group, the business-backed Bay Area Council, announced that was suspending its campaign to qualify a pair of measures to call a constitutional convention for the November ballot, also due to anemic fundraising numbers.

But Hertzberg emphasized that a folding the initiative campaign would not signal an end to California Forward's efforts. He said the group would continue to work with legislators to push for the enactment of its reform proposals, noting that Speaker John A. Perez today voiced his support for their plan to lower the budget vote threshold.

Steve Wiegand contributed to this report.


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