Politico Playbook

THE BUZZ — BAILING OUT EARLY: Like those of us honoring our New Year’s resolutions, California’s 2022 ballot is looking slimmer by the day.

More and more ballot initiative campaigns are pulling the plug as they confront the difficult realities of signature-gathering. An effort to channel general fund dollars to water storage projects looks like the latest to capsize, with organizers telling The Mercury News that they lacked the resources to rally enough voters. The measure’s committee had reported raising about $100,000 so far from farms and farmers. Now environmentalists needn’t come up with the cash to counter.

Organized labor could have fewer fights on its hands, too, as a trio of potential threats have evaporated or been deferred. One of two school voucher initiatives folded earlier this month; a proposal to make a quality education a constitutional right, cracking the door to teacher employment law fights, is now looking to be kicked to 2024; and Silicon Valley player and periodic ballot bankroller Tim Draper has abandoned his quest to declaw public employee unions by barring them from collective bargaining.

ALREADY IN  If you love watching campaign ads or make your living off of them, don’t worry. We’re still likely to see a lively and expensive ballot. A tobacco-sponsored referendum on California’s flavored tobacco ban, a recycling overhaul funded by waste management companies and the latest doctors-versus-lawyers fight over malpractice payouts have all gathered enough signatures to qualify. So too has a tribal-backed sports wagering effort, although that could be supplanted by a new tribal proposal that seeks in turn to compete with FanDuel et al’s still-circulating gaming push.

STILL WATCHING — More could be coming: affluent progressive Joe Sandberg’s campaign for an $18 minimum wage; the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s work to roll back property inheritance taxation changes; the third consecutive clash between SEIU-United Healthcare Workers and kidney dialysis clinics; a business-backed repeal of the lawsuit-generating Private Attorneys General Act; former L.A. Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner’s arts education effort; Carl DeMaio’svoter ID idea; and ballot initiatives to change ballot initiatives, by changing the recall process and taking away the attorney general’s authority to write ballot labels. And the Legalize Ferrets guy is trying again.

TAX THE RICH? — That proposal to fund single-payer health care with an array of new taxes has gotten all the attention. But this ballot could see two separate levies on wealthy Californians: a plan to create a pandemic early detection system by raising top earners’ taxes, funded largely by cryptocurrency players (really); and a newly launched effort to fund clean energy by upping affluent Californians’ income taxes, which has drawn more than $3 million from Lyft, climate campaigner Tom Steyer, tech grandee Ron Conway, labor and enviros.

Oh, and by the way, if those single-payer taxes defy the odds and win enough votes to pass the Legislature? Because it’s a constitutional amendment, it would still need to go — you guessed it — on the ballot.

BUENOS DÍAS, good Friday morning. California Republicans are telegraphing their intent to emphasize public safety in the midterm elections, with the RNC hosting an “Are You Better Off?” discussion focused on crime in San Diego today, featuring Sen. Brian Jones and CAGOP Chair Jessica Millan Patterson.

Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit jwhite@politico.com or follow me on Twitter @jeremybwhite. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity and that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.” President Joe Biden on his plans for an opening Supreme Court seat, keeping the door open for a certain California judge.

TWEET OF THE DAY: L.A. City Council member @nithyavraman writes a thread on the city’s diffuse homelessness services: “This is what we’ve built in LA. Because of our district-by-district approach, if you’re homeless here, the resources available to you can be completely different depending on what neighborhood, block, or even the side of the street you live on. This system is totally absurd.”

BONUS TOTD: @ElonMusk replies to Insurance Commissioner @RicardoLara, who accused Musk of wanting to change telematics rules: “You should be voted out of office”

WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.

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