CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / PROPOSITION 136 : Wilson Backs Initiative That Restricts Raising of Taxes

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Wilson on Wednesday strongly endorsed Proposition 136, the measure that contains a so-called "virus" that could wipe out three other measures on the same ballot by imposing new restrictions on raising taxes.

"It has my enthusiastic endorsement," Wilson told the California Taxpayers' Assn., a business group.

Wilson said he supports the measure because he is concerned about "an accelerating rash of initiatives appearing on the ballot at virtually every election." He said voters are casting ballots on measures "without any real understanding of what it will mean to them in terms of their total tax burden." He said another fear is that new taxes approved by voters "will drive businesses out of California."

Proposition 136 would impose a majority vote requirement on all general purpose tax increases and impose a so-called "super majority," or two-thirds requirement, to approve special taxes. Special taxes are those whose revenues are designated for specific purposes, such as for police and fire services.

Three measures also appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot call for such special taxes--Proposition 134, an alcohol tax earmarked for health programs and Propositions 129 and 133, which would raise new revenues to fight drugs and crime.

Wilson's Democratic opponent, Dianne Feinstein, has said she opposes Proposition 136.

His endorsement puts him squarely on the side of hard-line anti-tax groups and their financial backers in the liquor industry in the Proposition 136 fight and against an array of public interest groups opposed to the measure.

The beer, wine and distilled spirits industries have contributed an estimated $2 million to pass Proposition 136. Its potential ability to nullify votes on the other initiatives on the same ballot has been described as a "virus," or "poison pill" provision, by opponents. They portray the measure as undemocratic, because it would allow a minority of voters to defeat tax measures, as well as a backdoor way by the liquor industry to defeat Proposition 134.

Opponents include Common Cause, the California State Parent-Teacher Assn., the League of Women Voters, the California Tax-Reform Assn. and the League of California Cities.

Steve Hopcraft, campaign manager for the committee opposing Proposition 136, said: "We are shocked that Pete Wilson is fronting for the alcohol industry. . . . Support for something like this just doesn't seem to fit in with the generally moderate direction" his campaign has taken.

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