California voters narrowly voted to reject a ballot initiative that could have threatened two of Gov. Jerry Brown's megaprojects, the latest results showed Tuesday.
Brown had thrown his campaign clout and campaign funds into defeating Proposition 53, which would have required California-wide votes on state projects costing $2 billion or more in revenue bonds.
Returns show the measure was losing by a 51-to-49 percent margin.
A measure to reform the death penalty and speed executions also passed as elections officials continued to count outstanding ballots. Voters soundly rejected an opposing measure that would have repealed capital punishment.
Brown's appearances in TV and radio ads, recorded phone calls and campaign events in the final days before the Nov. 8 election may have helped tip what was a tight vote statewide on Proposition 53.
One of the areas casting a decisive "no" vote was Los Angeles County, where residents would benefit from both of Brown's proposed projects. It was one of the urban areas where Brown's commercials against the measure were in heavy play.
Brown contended the measure could cut local control of projects. A nonpartisan review by California's Legislative Analyst's Office said Brown's proposals for $64 billion in high-speed rail connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles and $15.7 billion for two giant north-south water tunnels would likely be among the few projects big enough to be affected.
"The defeat of Prop 53 is good news for California and our future. It means one less roadblock in the way of solving our water and transportation problems," Brown said.
Central Valley farmer and canner Dean "Dino" Cortopassi had put the finance measure on the state ballot.
An outspoken child of Italian immigrants, Cortopassi had called state revenue bonds for big projects "cockroach debt." He argued they needed voter oversight.
The Stockton farmer spent about $4 million getting the question on the state ballot, but only about $1 million promoting it. Brown and the state Democratic Party were the lead contributors in the $23 million campaign against the measure.
"The Yes on 53 campaign is waiting for the votes to be counted. There are still over 1.7 million ballots that need to be counted and the race is very close, with Prop 53 currently at 49.1 percent," said campaign spokeswoman Marie Brichetto.