Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to keep higher tax rates set to expire isn't the only thing voters would decide if lawmakers agree to putting the budget plan on the ballot in a June statewide special election.
Two initiatives have qualified for the next statewide election, currently scheduled for the February 2012 presidential primary, and would be bumped up if an election is called.
One measure, backed by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, would alter legislative term limits, allowing state legislators to serve 12 years consecutively in one house or split the time between the Assembly and the Senate. Sitting members, who are currently restricted to 14 years total -- eight years in the Senate and six years in the Assembly-- would still be subject to existing caps.
A second initiative would raise the tobacco tax by $1 a pack to fund cancer research and smoking prevention programs. That measure, which would raise an estimated $500 million annually, is backed by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association of California, the American Heart Association and former Democratic President Pro Tem Don Perata, a cancer survivor.
A June special election would move up the calendar for both measures by nearly a year -- significantly shortening the window for raising cash and running a statewide campaign. But proponents for both said Monday they weren't too worried about the scenario.
"Really, nothing changes for us," said Matt Klink, a spokesman for the term limits measure "We've got a simple, straightforward ballot measure that we believe has broad public support and we'll be ready to go whether it's in June or in February."
Klink said the initiative's backers had met late last month to discuss the upcoming campaign, including the possibility of a truncated time line. "This is not coming as a great surprise," he said of news Brown will try to go to the ballot in June.
Paul Knepprath, vice president of government relations for the American Lung Assocaition in California said backers of the California Cancer Research Act have already been "kicking into higher gear in anticipation that there may be a special election."
While their polling shows voters supportive of increased cigarette taxes, Knepprath said proponents expect to face a well-funded opposition campaign from the tobacco industry.
"We're going to be up against enormous resources," he said. "Now that there may be a special election... it's incumbent upon us to accelerate our campaign efforts to raise the money that (the campaign) needs to be competitive."
Three finance committees supporting signature gathering to qualify the cigarette tax initiative had a collective $10,000 on hand as of the most recent reports, filed last year. Proponents of the term limits measure reported more than $280,000 in the bank. No opposition campaign accounts have been formed to fight either measure.
A third measure -- to strengthen the state's rainy day fund -- was approved as part of last year's budget package and placed on the ballot by the state Legislature. But the language for that measure specifies that it will go on the February 2012 presidential primary, not the next statewide ballot.