On May 19 California voters will have special election on six propositions (1A-1F) placed on the ballot by the legislature in an attempt to solve our enduring budget crisis (we are now ten months into the fiscal year, with no final approved budget). Of course, the legislature could have actually done their jobs and come up with a workable budget solution on their own, but they've now, once again, failed to do their jobs and have put it to the citizens of this great state to do it for them. Can you tell that I'm just a little upset about this?
Prop 1A - Rainy Day Stabilization Fund - NO
On the surface, this sounds like a good idea; put money away in a special fund in case of a fiscal emergency. Except, the time to start this fund would have been a decade ago. It's pouring now, and yet 1A would immediately grab control of a chunk of the state's non-existent budget, forcing further cuts in needed services. Further, according to the League of Women Voters of California, "If Prop. 1A passes, the Governor would be given new power to make mid-year cuts and suspend COLAs in state programs without legislative oversight."
Prop 1B - Education Funding Re-payment - NO
Some years ago California voters approved a measure that would guarantee that Education's share of the state budget, as a percentage, would never be decreased. For the last several years, however, the Governor and legislature have broken that rule, "borrowing" billions from education with the unfulfilled promise to pay it back. 1B again promises to pay back the $9.3 billion owed... but not until 2011. The legislature already has the ability and the obligation to pay this money back, the proposition only grants them more time, and another two years to ignore the will of the people from previous elections.
For me, this is the most upsetting of the measures, and it is galling because the CTA (California Teachers Association) is endorsing this nonsense. Basically, the school bully took their lunch money on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday the bully took their money again. Then, on Thursday, the bully said to CTA, "We'll pay you back next week if we can have your lunch money again today." And now the CTA is telling the principal that bully is their best friend. Fear of deeper cuts if 1B fails is what drives this, but why should these guarantees be any more valid than the guarantees the legislature and Governor have already ignored? The CTA are fools and are complicit in the legislature's abrogation of their duties.
Prop 1C - Lottery Modernization - NO
Okay, if it were just "modernization" of the lottery, that would be fine. But they are so convinced that modernization is going to bring in new revenue that 1C will allow the state to borrow $5 billion (IE: sell bonds) from these future earnings to balance this year's budget. Never mind that most reasonable financial experts say that in the current market we probably won't be able to sell the bonds, or that the interest we'd pay if we do sell them would be unbearable, or that the lottery money was already guaranteed to education (see 1B, above). Idiocy upon idiocy. We're close enough to bankrupt already, thank you.
Prop 1D - Children's Services Funding - NO
How could I recommend a "no" vote on a proposition with a title like that? Because it's a lie. It takes away Children's Services Funding. 1D allows the state to take back the money that now funds each county's First 5 Commission and programs (as approved by voters in Prop 10) and use it to "achieve state General Fund budgetary savings" (according to the official voter information guide from the state). First 5 does great work throughout the state, and I've been pleased and proud to work with several First 5 programs in both Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties; programs that will likely close down in July if 1D passes.
Prop E - Mental Health Services Reallocation - NO
As with 1D taking back voter approved funds for Early Childhood Education, 1E takes back voter approved funds for Mental Health. As with this entire package of propositions, it demonstrates the Governor's and the legislature's disregard of the will of the people while at the same time asking the people to approve of their disregard. They have failed to do their job, and are now looking to us take the blame. They cannot accept responsibility for cutting spending (or raising taxes) and so they've wiped their hands clean and when First 5 folds, and mental health facilities close, and classrooms return to overcrowding, and the state's credit rating takes a [futher] dive from pawning worthless bonds, they can say, "It was the will of the people."
Prop 1F - Elected Officials' Salaries - YES
This, like the rest, is completely unnecessary. Elected officials have (in theory, at least) enough common sense not to give themselves raises in years of fiscal emergency. But, one self-serving State Senator thought it would score him points with voters to put it in writing. Ordinarily I'd like to tell him screw himself and recommend a "no" vote here, but I'm afraid that if 1F fails the legislature will take that a showing of support and give themselves unearned and undeserved raises.
So, what happens if 1A-1E fail? We don't know. Certainly nothing good. The legislature will certainly have to cut programs, and it won't be pleasant. But that is the job we elected them to do. We have let them slide, with late budgets, and ignoring previously passed propositions, for far too long.
But they are using this uncertainty to get our support for propositions unfairly. A co-worker of mine said it was like, "They're holding a gun to our heads." We agreed, pretty much, on the above analysis of the situation. She's giving in to the fear and voting "yes" on the full slate; I'm daring them to pull the trigger and voting "no."
So, what could help now? What propositions should they have put on the ballot?
Fantasy Proposition 1 - Majority Rule!
California is one of only a handful of states that requires a super-majority (2/3 vote) to pass its annual budget. This allows a minority of legislators (34%) to hold the majority hostage. In this way, both parties have become complicit in a dance that doesn't allow them to blame others for fear of taking their share of the blame. And there's plenty of blame to go around. The stalemate has to end, and the way to do it is with a simple majority rule, like we imagined a democracy would be. If the minority party wants to have a say, they've got to come to the table to work, not just be obstructionist babies.
Fantasy Proposition 2 - Repeal Term Limits
I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me here, and say that term limits help us remove these do-nothing politicians. On the contrary, it only helps them escape the blame. If any of them had a long-term interest in keeping their seats, they'd work out a budget compromise, as they did in the days before term limits. Now, they are on to the next position before the full estimate of the damage they've done currently is in. Musical chairs may be fun to watch and keep score, but it has left the lobbyists and political consultants in charge of neophyte electeds. It has failed the people and bankrupted our state.
League of Women Voters of California election site - Their press release is one of the best written analysis' of the measures I've seen
no on proposition 1d
no prop 1d & 1e coalition
vote no on 1a