Supporters of Governor Jerry Brown's tax increase initiative believe they've got the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, less than seven weeks after hitting the streets.
The initiative to temporarily raise income taxes on the most wealthy and sales taxes on everyone wrapped up its paid signature gathering on Wednesday, according to Democratic political consultant Gale Kaufman, a top advisor to the campaign.
It will likely take several weeks for elections officials to verify all the signatures, collected at a brisk pace following the governor's eleventh hour compromise with liberal activists who were originally pushing a millionaires tax initiative.
Meantime, Brown's fall tax hike competition also made news Wednesday.
Education activist Molly Munger and her PTA allies began submitting signatures for their temporary, virtually across-the-board income tax increase to help fund K-12 schools. The independently wealthy Munger has bankrolled the entire signature gathering effort -- some $7.2 million. And as she saidin a March interview, she's prepared to self-fund the entire 2012 campaign.
Even so, the Munger measure continues to fare poorly in public statewide polls, though its backers remain adamant that it's the best choice for voters who care about school funding.
At this point, the November ballot looks to be at least eight initiatives long. Among the leading contenders...
Crime and punishment: Two hot button initiatives in this category -- repeal of the 1978 initiative that created the death penalty, and another attempt to modify 1994's "Three Strikes" prison sentencing law. The latter is still having its signatures verified by elections officials, but backers are confident it will qualify.
Food Labeling: Wednesday also saw news of another initiative that'll no doubt get national attention: a requirement to label genetically modified foods sold in California. The initiative was largely bankrolled by a Chicago alternative-health food entrepreneur, and has generated an opposition effort that's already raising big bucks to kill the proposal.
Human trafficking: Another signatures-still-being-counted initiative seeks to stiffen the fines for human trafficking, often involving sexual exploitation of minors. Its authors include Chris Kelly, Facebook's former chief privacy officer and a 2010 Democratic candidate for attorney general.
Long-standing November players: Three other measures -- a referendum on newly redrawn state Senate districts, a measure banning paycheck deductions for political efforts, and an initiative allowing changes to auto insurance regulations -- qualified for the ballot either weeks or months ago.
The above list excludes an $11 billion water bond, which is widely believed will be pushed to 2014 by legislators and the governor (after already being pushed off the 2010 ballot).
And then there are two well-funded mysteries: an omnibus government reform initiative funded, in part, by a billionaire philanthropist... and a repeal of a big business tax break to fund clean energy projects and future state budget programs, financed by a wealthy hedge fund manager. Both efforts had money for signatures; but both also have faced internal political debates -- mostly among Democrats -- about whether to stand down and keep the party faithful's focus on Brown's tax hike.
Add those two, plus the water bond, and you have 11 potential ballot measures. But the safe bet... for now... is eight or nine.
Keep in mind that November 2010's ballot featured nine propositions, while there were 12 in November 2008 and 13 in November 2006. This fall is looking to be, by comparison, a relatively light load for voters.
For Brown, news that his initiative is now headed for the ballot probably means he now can spend the next six weeks focused on an on-time state budget... one with an even bigger hole to fill... before officially launching his campaign to pass the tax initiative.