The resounding rejection by voters of Proposition 61 snapped Paul Gann's win streak in a big way.
Except for a largely quixotic fight to dislodge Alan Cranston from his U.S. Senate seat in 1980, tax crusader Gann until Tuesday had been enormously successful with California voters since he co-sponsored the property tax-slashing Proposition 13 in 1978.
His subsequent grass-roots efforts placed a lid on public spending in 1979 (Proposition 4); established a "Victim's Bill of Rights" in 1982 (Proposition 8) and attempted to trim the money the Legislature could spend on itself in 1984 (Proposition 24). The latter measure was approved by voters only to be found unconstitutional by the courts.
But on Tuesday, voters rejected by a 2-1 ratio the 74-year-old gadfly's attempt to cap public employee salaries, beginning with the governor's.
Despite the defeat, anyone who hopes that Gann is through trying to save his fellow taxpayers a buck or two wherever he can does not know him, Gann said Wednesday.
"You're not whipped if you're knocked down," Gann has said repeatedly since Tuesday's defeat. "You're only whipped if you don't get back up."
Once he gets back up, though, Gann says, he'll be a little more careful so that next time his opponents won't find him such an easy mark. And there will be a next time, he vowed, probably two years down the road with his third attempt to cap salaries, Gann said. (Gann attempted to qualify a similar measure in 1976, but fell short of the needed signatures.)
Gann brushed aside any notion that by rejecting Proposition 61, voters were sending him a message that they are tired of his ballot initiative antics. He said the easy passage of Proposition 62, sponsored by the late Howard Jarvis, proved that voters support him. Gann campaigned for Proposition 62--which will require a vote of the electorate anytime local governments wish to raise taxes--after Jarvis, who co-authored Proposition 13, died last summer.
Issue of Reputation
But Richard Simpson, executive director of the California Taxpayers Assn., which led the No on 61 fight, said Tuesday's results showed that Gann cannot work his magic at will and that his reputation has been tarnished.
"The measure was very poorly drafted and in that respect it was a reflection on Paul Gann," Simpson said. "We had a very thorough debate over the last three or four months and never got much of an insight about the rationale behind the proposal."
California Taxpayers helped Gann draft the government spending lid passed in 1979, but Simpson said he is doubtful that the organization would want to work with Gann again.
"I am inclined that we would not (ally ourselves with Gann), but again, you never know," Simpson said.
In a post-election interview, Gann said many of his traditional supporters abandoned him in the fight over Proposition 61 because of a controversial projection by the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office that the measure could cost taxpayers $7 billion. That estimate was based on the possibility that courts would rule that vacation and sick pay benefits accumulated before Election Day would have to be paid to tens of thousands of public employees if the measure passed.
Hurt by Argument
"There was no way we could overcome that $7 billion (argument)," Gann said. "The people say the reason I'm against (the measure) is because we can't afford it--it will cost the taxpayers $7 billion."
Gann argued for months that the $7-billion scenario was implausible, "but we could not prove it wasn't true."
Next time won't be so easy for the opposition, Gann said. Sounding somewhat like a football coach after a losing game, Gann said, "We will make a complete study of our initiative to see where we failed to make things clear and we will redo it."
Having said that, Gann would not concede that the measure was, as its critics charged, poorly written and ambiguous.
"I don't feel there were problems," Gann said. "But I do feel that there were things in it to give the opposition things to build up and make it look like a problem." He said some of his supporters told him that he "really gave them the hatchet to cut you up with."