With the May 19 election less than a week away, state polls indicate that five of the six propositions on the ballot are in serious trouble of coming up short with voters, the Public Policy Institute of California reported last week. Failure of these measures would result in the collapse of the state budget – which was belatedly signed on Feb. 19 ­– leaving an immediate $5.84 billion hole for lawmakers to fill and bringing Governor Schwarzenegger and the legislature back to the drawing board.
The PPIC, an independent, nonpartisan group that performs research on public policy, found that interest about the special election has risen since March – as has opposition to ballot measures 1A through 1E.
“The voters who are really tuned in are really turned off,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president, CEO, and survey director. “They see the state’s budget situation as a big problem, but so far, they don’t like the solution.”
Among those who stand to take the hardest hits if May 19 measures fail are California’s educators, as well as firefighters and law enforcement officers. During a press conference with CalFire officials last Tuesday, Governor Schwarzenegger warned that 1,100 seasonal state firefighters and 600 permanent firefighters would need to be eliminated if voters do not approve these propositions ­– outraging opponents who call such statements “scare tactics.”
The following are synopses of each of the ballot measures. For more complete information, consult the California Voter’s Guide, which can be found online at www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov.
Proposition 1A
Proposition 1A, also known as the Budget Stabilization Fund, would impose a spending cap on state government, and create a state “rainy day fund.”
If 1A is successful, the temporary tax increases which were approved in the Feb. 19 budget would be held over for an additional two years – until 2011 – in order to help California slog its way out of debt. These increases include the one-cent-per-dollar sales tax hike, the state’s vehicle licence fee increase, and a .25% income tax hike on every tax bracket.
Proposition 1B
Proposition 1B, or the  Education Repayment and Proposition 98 Maintenance Factor,  would provide funding to California’s schools starting in the year 2011, to compensate for cuts resulting from the current budget and economic climate.
The measure asks voters to modify Proposition 98 (which was passed by California voters in 1988) to provide a minimum guarantee of funding for kindergarten through 12th grade education.
Prop. 98 ensured that 40% of California’s general funds be spent on education. Since that time, however, the state’s general fund has been dwindling due to a number of factors, including numerous tax cuts as well as the general economic climate. Therefore, school funding has been shrinking – and $9.3 billion that would have gone to educational funding was redistributed and lost in the fray.
Proposition 1B is contingent on the success of 1A; if 1A fails, there would be no mechanism for the state to implement repayment to schools.
Proposition 1C
Proposition 1C is one of the major components of the plan approved on Feb. 19 to balance the state budget. Labelled the Lottery Modernization Act, 1C would allow the state government to borrow $5 billion from future lottery profits in order to close the giant gap in the 2009 state budget.
The measure would make significant changes to the state lottery, which was approved by voters in 1984.
Proposition 1D
Proposition 1D would redirect existing tobacco tax money from California’s First 5 Program to fund other state health and human services programs for the next five years.
The  California Children and Families Program, now more commonly known as First 5, was enacted after the passing of Proposition 10 in 1998. Funded by the revenues from a fifty cent per pack tax on tobacco products, First 5 expanded early childhood development programs for children aged five and under. Siskiyou County’s 10 Community Resource Centers are supported by First 5, as is the Brightsmiles program, which provides free dental care for California’s children.
If approved by voters, Proposition 1D would redirect $340 million of First 5’s unspent reserves as well as divert future First 5 revenues in the amount of $268 million annually for the next five years. These funds would then be redirected to the state general fund.
Proposition 1E
Proposition 1E is similar in nature to Proposition 1D. If approved, a large portion of funding from the Mental Health Services Act would be redirected to the state’s general fund to help pay for the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Program.
The Mental Health Services Act was approved by California voters via Proposition 63 in 2004 to provide expanded mental health programs through a personal income tax surcharge of 1 percent on taxpayer’s earning more than $1 million. Revenues from this tax  are distributed through the State Department of Mental Health, primarily through contracts with the counties. Some of these funds are used in combination with matching federal funding to provide mental health services for Medi-Cal eligible persons.
If approved, IE would temporarily redirect $226.7 million of these funds in 2009 and 2010, and between $226.7 million and $234 million in 2010 and 2011 to the general fund.
Proposition 1F
Legislators in California currently make approximately $116,000 per year; the governor makes $212,000. The salaries of most elected official are set by the California Citizens Compensation Commission – a board of seven members appointed by the governor. Proposition 1F would restrict the commission from raising salaries in projected deficit years.