Past and future ballot campaigns…

It’s like deja vu… The campaign against the Prop 29 tobacco tax to fund cancer research was similar to big money efforts in the past against popular health measures, whether Prop 72 (expansion of employer-based health care) in 2004, Prop 79 (prescription drug reform) in 2005, or Prop 86 (tobacco tax) in 2006.  They all involved a major corporate interest plowing millions of dollars in opposition, and all even used the same political consultants and even many of the same arguments.

Prop 29 came excruciatingly close–as of this writing, it has 49.2% of the vote, losing by a mere 60,000 vote margin out of millions cast. (There are still outstanding ballots to be cast, so who knows the final result.) It’s the exact same, super-close percentage as Prop 72 (49.2%), and even a point closer than the previous Prop 86 tobacco tax (48.2%).

One takeaway is that is took the tobacco industry tens of millions of dollars, outspending the proponents over 8-1, to get a final split decision that could have gone either way.

Some commentary suggests implications for the November ballot fight for revenues to protect schools and public safety from additional budget cuts. Yes, they are both revenue measures, and we know it’s hard to pass anything that includes taxes. Nothing new there.

The November election will have a much bigger electorate that is expected to vote for President Obama handily. There is not expected to be a single industry pouring tens of millions in opposition. Governor Brown and his allies are expected to raise the needed funds to run a respectable campaign. Finally, the benefit of the funds raised is different–cancer research is broadly supported but might lack the direct constituency of schools and parks and other vital services. Parents across the state will know the consequences to their kids’ schools if the initiative fails.

We have a lot of work to do, on both the effort to decrease tobacco use and cancer, and the campaign for a fair budget that sustains vital services.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.