Prop 26 – Voters Must Reject the Polluter Protection Act
By Richard Holober
Consumer Federation of California
Prop 26 is a sneak attack on environmental and health regulations that costs California’s general fund a billion dollars a year. Voters must reject this big oil and big tobacco hand out, and reject it they will.
The ballot label that voters will read when they cast their votes states: “PROPOSITION 26. REQUIRES THAT CERTAIN STATE AND LOCAL FEES BE APPROVED BY TWO-THIRDS VOTE. FEES INCLUDE THOSE THAT ADDRESS ADVERSE IMPACTS ON SOCIETY OR THE ENVIRONMENT CAUSED BY THE FEE-PAYER’S BUSINESS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Fiscal Impact: Depending on decisions by governing bodies and voters, decreased state and local government revenues and spending (up to billions of dollars annually). Increased transportation spending and state General Fund costs ($1 billion annually).”
A month ago, a prominent Democratic pollster told a small meeting I attended that his statewide poll of likely voters found Prop 26 support trailing opposition by over ten points. His poll question read the actual ballot label, and he concluded that the billion dollar hit to the general fund was the ballot measure’s Achilles Heel.
Of course an $18 million dollar Yes campaign funded by Chevron, Philip Morris and other polluters can have a big impact on these numbers. That Yes campaign is a cynical attempt by polluters and companies that profit from harming our health to offload their clean up costs onto ordinary taxpayers.
Fortunately, the Yes on 26 TV commercials feature cartoonish stereotypes of politicians conspiring to deceive the public. These shopworn cliché ads lack any creative devise to grab the viewer’s attention before the viewer grabs the remote control to change the channel.
While outspent by over ten million, the No on 26 Campaign has launched a few ads that cut through the clutter.
The No on Prop 26 campaign has swept 29 of 30 daily newspaper endorsements, and has built a coalition that encompasses every environmental, health, consumer, labor, public safety, and good government group.
I have an unscientific method to survey which side is winning the message war. Google search algorithms rank websites by frequency of visits. Searching “Proposition 26” website links on Google, the first three search pages contained links to three neutral websites with Prop 26 ballot information, 34 links to sites that that were negative on Prop 26, and two links to sites that favored the measure. Top Google blog links on Proposition 26 yielded similar results: 26 blogs that panned Prop 26, two that were neutral and two that favored the measure among the top blogs listed.
This does not mean that the No side is doing more blogging or loading more materials on websites. It simply means that voters seeking an alternative to TV ads are gravitating en masse to websites and articles that are critical of the measure.
Proposition 26 is taking on the contours that we’ve seen in other recent campaigns that pitted massive funding by corporate special interests against underfunded grassroots opponents.
In 2008, voters rejected T Boone Pickens’ Prop 10 fossil fuel scheme, with a 60% No vote, despite being outspent $23 million to $175,000. In June, 2010, voters saw through PG&E’s $45 million Prop 16 scam, with less than $100,000 spent by the Vote No campaign. Voters also turned down Mercury Insurance’s Prop 17, despite funding of $16 million by the insurance industry, over ten times more than opponents spent.
Voters should reject the latest attempt to put narrow corporate interests ahead of the public interest.
Join the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association of California, League of Women Voters, California Nurses Association, Sierra Club, Planning and Conservation League, California Professional Firefighters, California Teachers Association, California Labor Federation, Coalition for Clean Air, and Natural Resources Defense Council in voting No on Proposition 26, the Polluter Protection Act.
Richard Holober is the Executive Director of the non-profit Consumer Federation of California a leading consumer advocacy organization.