California governor shrugs off tobacco tax defeat

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Jun 6, 2012 11:43pm EDT

California Governor Jerry Brown (C) talks with the crowd prior to the opening of a new visitors' center at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California May 25, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

California Governor Jerry Brown (C) talks with the crowd prior to the opening of a new visitors' center at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California May 25, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown said on Wednesday the defeat of a measure proposing a tobacco tax increase in the state's primary election is not a bad sign for the tax measure he aims to put on the November ballot.

The Democratic governor told the San Francisco Chronicle the narrow defeat of the measure on Tuesday reflects how its campaign was simply outspent on advertising by its opponents.

Proposition 29 would have added a $1 tax to a pack of cigarettes to raise revenue for medical research into tobacco-related diseases and programs to prevent tobacco use.

A barrage of negative television advertising was unloaded on the measure recent weeks and analysts said that steadily eroded support for it.

Opponents, led by tobacco companies, raised nearly $47 million to combat the measure. Its supporters, including the American Cancer Society and cycling champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, raised just over $12 million, according to nonpartisan research group MapLight.

According to California's secretary of state, 50.8 percent of voters rejected Proposition 29 while 49.2 percent were in favor.

"To me, it's kind of a no-brainer that, you know, we do more investing on our great research. But I don't think it says anything about November," Brown told the Chronicle in a filmed interview posted on the newspaper's website.

Brown aims to put a measure on the November ballot that proposes increasing the state's sales tax and tax rates on wealthy taxpayers to raise revenue to help fill a state budget gap he projects at $15.7 billion.

To narrow the shortfall, Brown last month proposed cutting state employee pay and spending on health and social programs.

If voters reject tax increases in November, Brown has said an additional $6.1 billion in spending, including $5.5 billion in spending on schools and community colleges, will need to be cut later this year.

(Reporting By Jim Christie; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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