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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS BALLOT MEASURES : Drive for Hike in Gas Tax Runs Low on Financial Fuel

May 31, 1990|VIRGINIA ELLIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Last-minute money woes Wednesday prompted the campaign to win voter approval of a gasoline tax increase to cancel major television advertising planned for key markets in the final days before the June 5 primary election.

Campaign insiders said the money shortage is so serious that some markets would be "black," meaning no television advertisements from the Yes on Propositions 111 and 108 camp would be aired. They said they did not know yet which markets these would be.

Treasurer Thomas W. Hiltachk said fund raising in the last few days has steadily fallen short of the goals set by the campaign, which had hoped to bring its total collections to $5.9 million before the closing stretch of the campaign.

Gov. George Deukmejian, who is heading the campaign, has put his reputation on the line to win the tax increase. Hiltachk said that from the beginning, the governor has insisted that the effort not end up with a deficit.

"It's really tight," one campaign supporter said. "We're getting checks for $5,000 and $10,000 when we need them to be $25,000 and $50,000."

Campaign consultants tried to put the best light on the situation.

"County registrars around the state tell us they have been receiving record numbers of absentee ballot requests. They have also been telling us that there could be a record low turnout at the polling places on Election Day. With that in mind, we are focusing our messages on the high propensity voters during the few remaining days of the campaign and we believe those voters can best be reached through an increased emphasis on direct mail and radio," the campaign's Burlingame-based consultants, Woodward-McDowell said in a formal statement.

The phased-in, 9-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase would help finance a 10-year, $18.5-billion transportation improvement and congestion relief program. The tax increase can go into effect, however, only if voters approve Proposition 111, a ballot measure that modifies the state's spending limit. Proposition 108 would authorize $1 billion of the new transportation funds in bonds to pay for mass transit.

"The final ads are crucial to our strategy," campaign news director Bob Schmidt said. "From day one the strategy has been to localize the campaign and tell, 'Here's what your dollars will mean to you in your neighborhood.' "

The campaign has designed five different ads for specific regions of the state--Los Angeles, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and rural areas.

"Some stations were paid through Tuesday," said one official. "Those that weren't are going to get calls that we have caneled."

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