California residents are heading to the polls for a special election on a series of budget measures to tackle the state’s multi-billion dollar deficit.
Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger says the steps are vital and has warned of deep spending cuts and the sale of state property even if the measures pass.
California is facing a shortfall of at least $15.4bn (£9.9bn).
But opinion polls suggest voters are either unconvinced or confused by most of the proposed measures.
California’s budget woes show little signs of easing. Earlier this year, the state raised taxes and cut spending to tackle a shortfall of $42bn but amid the global economic slowdown, tax revenues are down and the state is still in the red.
Voters are being asked to consider six measures – five specifically targeted at shoring up the state’s shaky finances.
- Proposition 1A: increases the state’s rainy-day reserves, puts a cap on spending and extends recent increases in sales, income and vehicle taxes for up to two additional years
- Proposition 1B: guarantees education funding but only if 1A passes as well
- Proposition 1C: allows the state to borrow $5bn against future lottery revenue
- Propositions 1D and 1E: shift money from child development and mental health programmes to the general fund.
Opinion polls suggest voters are either not persuaded or are confused by these ballot measures.
The only one that seems to enjoy general support is the additional measure, Proposition 1F, which would freeze elected officials’ pay in years when there is a budget deficit.
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