Friday, April 17, 2009

May 19 election: not the election we need

Here we go again. California is having another of its out-of-season special statewide elections. It's the usual -- the people are being asked to do the job of the legislature. Not that this is entirely the legislature's fault. In several earlier rounds of legislating by initiative we trashed a lot of the rules that enable representative bodies to make laws and policy.

Anyway on May 19, we are being asked to vote on a morass of propositions that would add additional wrinkles to the already broken budget process. I'm glad to see that several California groups I respect, including Calitics and the Wellstone Democratic Club, have come to the same conclusion I'd come around to.

All the propositions on the May ballot deserve a resounding NO.
  • Prop. 1A -- State spending cap: that's right -- proponents want to take the away from the legislature the job of making fiscal choices for the state that take into account their constituents' wishes and economic realities. Instead this would tie legislators down with formulas that put Republican refusal to pay for needed services into the state constitution. This is an ugly piece of extortion put on the ballot in desperation so the legislature could pass any budget at all this year. Just say no!
  • Prop. 1B -- shields some education funding from the cuts required by Prop. 1A for one year; it only becomes law if Prop. 1A passes. I suppose this is on the ballot to attempt to take the Teachers' Union out of action in the election. It's still bad law, not a fix for lack of education funding, just another wrinkle in a jerry-built system. Besides, if Prop. 1A passes, education funding is screwed, just like all other public services. No!
  • Prop. 1C -- They want to sell bonds backed by proceeds of the state lottery. I'd call that gambling on gambling. How much more of a house of cards can the state government become? No.
  • Prop. 1D -- seeks to raid funds raised from cigarette taxes for early childhood education and use them to plug the state's general budget hole. Designated funds like these are terrible policy, but given the Mickey Mouse way we've broken the budget process by previous initiatives, designated funds are the only way we get early childhood education paid for at all. No.
  • Prop. 1E -- This one is a raid on another designated fund, the one that pays for mental health services by hitting people who make over $1 million annually with a 1 percent tax surcharge. I see no reason to believe we don't need mental health services -- and all too much reason to believe we do need them. No.
  • Prop. 1F -- this one is populist bait. It proposes to punish legislators by preventing them from getting any pay raise if the state budget runs a deficit. Not that they really have much control over whether the state finds itself in deficit; there's a little thing called the national economy that largely determines that. But we want someone to blame when times get tough. On the scale of the state's budget problems, we're talking chump change here. This is just a way for voters to throw a tantrum. No.
What's wrong with the May 19 ballot is that the only measure which would do the state's fiscal crisis any good is not on it. That would be an initiative to get rid of the ridiculous requirement that two thirds of both houses of the legislature have to vote in favor of any budget.

This rule empowers small minorities of Republicans to impose their anti-general welfare agenda on the whole state. If they want to do without police, fire fighters, ambulances, hospitals and schools in some gated enclave, fine, let 'em. But the rest of us live together in communities and need government to do its job.

Minorities should not be able to tie the state government in knots and confront voters with garbage elections like this. Let us vote to restore majority rule to the budget process! That's a ballot measure I can believe in.
The flyer on the left in the picture above may be of more interest to many in the neighborhood -- it exhorts "Stop the Raids and Deportations" of undocumented immigrants.


Darlene said...

Oh boy, I'm glad I don't live in California, but my children do. I know they will vote no on all of the initiatives.

Fr. John said...

Thanks Jan, this is very helpful. I've come to the conclusion that ballot initiatives in general actually thwart the democratic process - not what the early populist advocates of such initiatives expected or desired, but that is what it has come to.

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