This weekend marks the official start of autumn -- and in California that also means polls, TV ads and candidate debates. There's a lot riding on the November 6 ballot. Host Scott Shafer talks with Anthony York, who joins us from Sacramento where he covers politics for the Los Angeles Times.
SCOTT SHAFER: Anthony, first of all, we'll get to politics in just a second, but let's talk policy for a quick moment. Governor Brown this week signed an overhaul of the state's worker compensation system, and it was kind of a rare bi-partisan moment, some agreement on both sides of the aisle. Tell us what was broken and what's the fix?
ANTHONY YORK: It was a bi-partisan agreement not only between Republicans and Democrats but really business and labor working together to come to a common solution. There were two problems. Number one was that workers who were injured were not receiving enough in payments. Simultaneously, businesses paying worker's compensation insurance were faced with an increase of about 18% in their insurance premiums coming up. So the two sides came together, they found a way to increase payments for injured workers, set aside some money for the catastrophically injured workers, and also reduce premiums by close to 20%. So it was heralded by all sides as, as you said, a rare bi-partisan win.
SHAFER: Let's talk about the November election, Anthony. Governor Brown does have a lot riding on the outcome, especially with Proposition 30, which would raise income taxes on the wealthy and sales taxes on all of us. The Governor got kind of mixed news from two polls this week; tell us what they said.
YORK: They said that just about half of voters are still in favor of the Governor's plan, Proposition 30, and that there are increasing numbers of voters that are unsure. So there's still a lot of uncertainty in these last 6 to 7 weeks of the campaign.
SHAFER: And at the same time, there's Proposition 38, which would raise income taxes on everyone - mostly millionares - but everyone would take a little bit of a hit. Opinion polls show that more split, a little bit less support, under 50% for Proposition 38. But that's got to add to the confusion for voters, doesn't it?
YORK: It does, and it's also adding to the concern for the Governor. Right now, I think the proponents of Proposition 30 view the Proposition 38 campaign as the major threat. That initiative is financed by a Pasadena attorney, Mollie Munger, who's put about $25 million into the campaign so far. Their concern is that a strongly comparative campaign, comparing Proposition 30 to Proposition 38, could help sink Proposition 30, even if Proposition 38 fails as well.
SHAFER: Just give us a quick sense of what happens if Propositions 30 and 38 go down, and that extra revenue isn't there.
YORK: The state budget that was signed by Brown back in June is contingent upon Proposition 30 passing. If Proposition 30 goes down, regardless of what happens to Proposition 38, there will be about $5.5 billion in cuts. Most of that will be to K-12 schools, about $5 billion. Another half a billion dollars - 250 million each from the UC and CSU systems, and a couple other small cuts.
SHAFER: Let's look at another ballot measure, kind of a sleeper proposition, Proposition 32, which would severely limit unions' ability to use dues for campaign contributions. There's a new field poll out Friday morning, which shows it losing, with 44%, 38% yes, and the rest undecided. What's at stake for unions here?
YORK: Pretty much everything. This is very similar to proposals that California voters have rejected twice before, that would limit unions' ability to automatically deduct dues from workers' paychecks and use that money for political purposes. Unless they can be clever and find some sort of workaround, that has the potential to cripple unions, which give hundreds of millions of dollars to state initiatives and campaigns every cycle.
SHAFER: Overwhelmingly, of course, that money goes to Democrats and causes friendly to Democrats, so there's a lot riding on that for the party as well. Before I let you go, there was a new law that took effect this week. It's going to allow online voter registration. Tell us how it works and how it could affect the election or just generally politics in the state.
YORK: The popular opinion seems to be that more voters tends to mean more Democrats. Whether or not that bears out remains to be seen. Republicans have said that making this type of online voter registration could potentially lead to voter fraud. Democrats say it's really just about trying to expand participation. We'll see if the necessary protections are in place, and if it does have any impact. I think the bottom line is, will this have any impact in actually expanding voter participation?
SHAFER: Anthony York, reporter for the LA Times, talking with us from Sacramento, where he covers politics and government. Anthony, thanks a lot.
YORK: Thank you, Scott.