A ballot measure proposing to change the way California secretary of state campaigns are financed cannot be described by opponents in the voter manual as a move that will "raise your taxes" -- because for the general public, it won't, a Sacramento judge ruled Monday.
Settling a challenge to the measure's description at the eleventh hour -- the voter guide printing deadline was 5 p.m. Monday -- Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley struck the wording from the argument against Proposition 15.
Major lobbying groups filed suit against the measure last year, contending that the plan to collect a $350 annual fee from lobbyists and their employers to finance the 2014 and 2018 campaigns for secretary of state would constitute a new tax.
In arguments against the measure to be included in the voter guide, the opponents mentioned its potential effect on taxes and taxpayers 23 times. Frawley struck the statement that passage of the measure would "raise your taxes" but left in place the other references.
"The fact is that Proposition 15 would impose a new tax to finance political campaigns, and if revenues come up short, the Legislature can tap the general fund" to make up the difference, said Richard Wiebe, a spokesman for the No on Proposition 15 campaign. The opponents include the lobbyist association Institute of Governmental Advocates, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. and the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
Common Cause, the nonpartisan citizens group that sought to have the warning of tax increases struck, said Frawley's action eliminated a misleading description of the measure's result.
"Voters will now have a more truthful depiction of Prop. 15 when they vote on it this June," said spokesman Derek Cressman.
Common Cause supports the pilot project on public financing of campaigns to reduce the influence of special interests in elections.