May 18, 2009 -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is facing a drubbing at the polls on Tuesday as California voters prepare to weigh in on six budget-related ballot measures backed by the former action movie star.
"Five of the six ballot measures are headed to defeat," Mark DiCamillo, the director of the non-partisan Field Poll, told ABC News. "There's a lack of trust. Voters have turned away from the governor. He will certainly be in lame duck status for the rest of his term."
A defeat on Tuesday would be a big setback not only for the Republican governor but also for the scores of Democrats and six Republicans in the state legislature who placed the propositions on the ballot as part of a budget deal struck in February. Voter approval is needed for these measures because they involve changes to the state's constitution.
According to public polling in the state, the only measure which is headed towards passage is Proposition 1F which would restrict pay hikes for elected officials in deficit years but not actually generate much in the way of savings for the taxpayers.
The other measures appear to be headed towards defeat (see below for a summary of all six).
California, home to one in eight Americans, is in dire fiscal shape.
Even if all of the ballot measures were to pass on Tuesday, the state is facing a deficit of $15.4 billion. If the measures do not pass, the state's budget shortfall gets even worse.
Schwarzenegger warned last week that if his package goes down to defeat, the state's deficit will swell to $21.3 billion.
The governor said a deficit of that size will force him to shorten the school year by seven days, cut off health care to more than 200,000 children, and shorten the state prison sentences of up to 19,000 illegal immigrants so they can be handed over to federal authorities for deportation.
If Proposition 1A, a measure that includes a tax hike and rainy day fund, goes down to defeat on Tuesday, anti-tax groups will have defeated a "yes" campaign which had significantly more resources.
It is not clear, however, how the state will react to the deep cuts which the governor says will be necessary if his ballot measures fail.
"Voters are not really pointing the way," said DiCamillo. "In our recent poll, the only areas where a majority supported making cuts are . . . the prison system and state parks."
"Public schools, health-care, higher education -- those are areas that voters are least apt to make major cuts to and yet those programs constitute about 75 percent of the budget," he added.
Asking voters to approve higher taxes in a bad economy was never going to be easy, but DiCamillo thinks advocates of the ballot measures made things harder on themselves by choosing "obtuse" ballot language.
"They were too cute by half," said DiCamillo. "They wanted to avoid describing any of the negative impact. But as a result, they made the language so vague that even a knowledgeable voter was left to wonder what would happen if they voted 'yes.' When voters are confused about what the effect of a measure will be, they tend to vote "no" because it's seen as a safer vote."
SUMMARY OF CALIFORNIA BALLOT MEASURES:
Proposition 1A: Raises sales, car, and income taxes by $16 billion over a two-year period and requires a bigger rainy day fund going forward.
Proposition 1B: Requires the state to make $9.3 billion in additional payments to schools and community colleges. 1B only takes effect if 1A passes.
Proposition 1C: Authorizes the state to expand the lottery by offering bigger prizes and then borrows $5 billion against the new revenue that the expanded lottery is expected to generate.
Proposition 1D: Directs tobacco tax revenue away from director Rob Reiner's Early Childhood Development program and toward the state's general fund.
Proposition 1E: Directs "personal income tax surcharge" away from specified mental health programs and toward the state's general fund. (The "personal income tax surcharge" is a tax of 1 percent on the portion of taxable income in excess of $1 million).
Proposition 1F: Prevents legislators, the governor, and other state elected officials from receiving pay increases in years when the state is running a deficit.