Prop. 49 Is Heading to Victory

Times Staff Writer

A statewide ballot measure to boost after-school programs at California’s elementary and middle schools was garnering solid support Tuesday, while a proposal to allow citizens to register and vote on the same day was foundering.

“The voters of California have spoken loud and clear today,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor who campaigned for the school program and is considered a potential Republican candidate for governor in 2006. “As soon as we start implementing this program,” he told supporters, quoting his own famous movie line, “I’ll be back.”

Even as they elected a governor and other top state officials, California voters decided the fate of a number of measures that would take major financial decisions out of the hands of politicians and automatically fund roads, water projects and housing, in addition to after-school programs. It was, nonetheless, a relatively small array of propositions for a state that has had a love affair with the initiative process.


The same-day voting measure, Proposition 52, was polling poorly, far short of the majority it needed. It was bankrolled by wealthy San Francisco philanthropist Rob McKay, an heir to a Taco Bell fortune, who argued that the best way to improve California’s sagging voter turnout was to allow the state’s busy residents to register and cast a ballot at the polls. But opponents, most notably Secretary of State Bill Jones, said it could increase voter fraud and lead to Florida-style election confusion.

“We were outspent about 25 to 1 -- the other side spent about $10 million -- and so we thought the margin might tighten,” Dave Gilliard, political consultant for the campaign against Proposition 52, said, acknowledging that he was surprised at the degree of opposition. “But the people seemed to see through all the ads. I think they know there is no roadblock to access to the ballot in California. The problem is voter apathy.”


Results of Exit Poll

A Los Angeles Times exit poll of 60 precincts across the state found that Proposition 52 fared well among Democrats, especially those in urban areas, Jews, Latinos and African Americans. However, it did poorly with Republicans, whites and residents in most parts of the state outside the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

The after-school programs measure, Proposition 49, was garnering strong support, , safely above the majority it needed. Schwarzenegger argued that the proposal to spend up to $550 million a year for tutoring, homework assistance and recreational programs at elementary and middle schools filled a vital unmet need.

But opponents, who included the League of Women Voters and an array of Democratic legislators, argued that it would sidestep the state budget process and take funding away from other important needs, possibly even education.

“This is a victory for the kids,” said Proposition 49 spokeswoman Sheri Annis. “If Prop. 49 passes, we believe we will start a trend throughout the nation toward comprehensive after-school programs.”

The Times exit poll showed Proposition 49 polling well among every demographic group, including men and women, and Republicans as well as Democrats. The housing measure, Proposition 46, was receiving solid majority support. i. It was placed on the ballot by Democratic legislators, led by the liberal leader of the California Senate, John Burton of San Francisco, who argued that the proposed $2.1-billion bond issue was desperately needed to fund shelters for battered women, housing for the homeless and low-income housing for seniors in a state with sky-high real estate prices.

Republican legislators and taxpayer groups lined up against it, saying the state was carrying far too much debt and could not afford to float more bonds given its budget problems.

The transportation measure, Proposition 51, was falling far short of the majority vote needed.

It was backed by an unlikely coalition, the environmental group Planning and Conservation League and an array of private developers and institutions, including cities such as Irvine, which sought to guarantee funding for certain projects by siphoning off 30% of the car sales tax money that now goes to the state budget.


Strong Opposition

It was lambasted by a wide range of government watchdog groups and state lawmakers, who called it one of the more brazen attempts to bypass the Legislature and secure funding for projects that probably would not make the cut in the competitive budget process.

The water measure, Proposition 50, was heading toward the majority vote it needed. It was backed by water officials and environmentalists, who argued that the $3.4-billion bond was needed to buy wetlands, help preserve water from the Colorado River and improve the safety of tap water.

But opponents, primarily taxpayer groups, argued that the state could ill afford to float more bonds. They also questioned whether the state should pay landowners so much for their wetland properties.

Finally, voters also considered Proposition 48, a measure to clear up language in the state Constitution after the merger of the Municipal and Superior Court systems, which was previously approved by voters. It was receiving backing from nearly three out of four voters.