The LA Times on the May 19 Special Election, Again (Updated)

Faced with polling that shows that voters aren’t buying their last editorial, the Los Angeles Times tries, once again, to convince people to vote yes.

Some voters seem to think that rejecting these measures will send politicians a message. It will. It will tell them that Californians won’t stand for constructive compromise of the sort that Republican state Sen. Dave Cogdill of Modesto and Assemblyman Mike Villines of Clovis sought when they agreed to the deal, and that we’ll grant political points for intransigence but none for actual accomplishment. It will tell them that we are suckers for grandstanding. It will tell them to keep fighting and stay deadlocked.

California must get on a different road, change its political dynamic and perhaps its political structure, but it can do that only if it can move. And to move, voters must pass the ballot measures. There is little point in arguing over the next turn if the discussion takes place in the back seat of a rusted-out hulk.

First off, the entire car metaphor (not quoted), is ridiculous, but for those of you who bothered to follow through to the whole editorial, I’ll play along. The spending cap, prop 1A, is the equivalent of reducing the size of gas tank so we’ll never be able to travel as far while also deciding not to pay for regular maintenance. The car will keep running for a while and will cost less – right until the transmission falls out.

More seriously, passing the ballot propositions won’t actually keep the state running. Prop 1A doesn’t have any effects for 3-4 years. The education funding in Prop 1B is already owed to the schools by the state. Indeed, the California Federation of Teachers has sued the state to get that money. Prop 1c will only help the state if we can find anyone to buy our bonds – a problem we are already having – and with lottery revenues down there isn’t much incentive for potential purchasers. Propositions 1D and 1E just shuffle money around, at the cost of our state’s worst off; and prop 1F has nothing to do with the budget at all.

Even if all of the ballot measures pass, we are still looking at a budget short-fall of $10 billion dollars on May 20th. It would be nice if the LA Times recognized that simple fact. There is no significant up-side to passing these ballot measures, and a considerable cost in future  budget flexibility. Unless, of course, you are a centrism fetishist who cares more about ‘bipartisan compromise’ than actually solving our state’s problems.

Since we’ll still have a budget crisis on May 20, there is no good reason to create a spending cap on May 19. Instead, we need real long-term budget reform, in the form of a return to a simply majority requirement for both the budget and taxes. I agree that the majority vote won’t solve our immediate problem – but neither will Prop 1A. If nothing else, the Times should recognize that if we can afford to put off a majority-vote reform until the present crisis has passed, then surely we can do the same with an ill-conceived and poorly debated spending cap.

Update: The Sacramento Bee has different numbers:

The Republican governor’s Department of Finance has projected a budget gap of $15.4 billion if the May 19 special election ballot measures pass and $21.3 billion if they fail. The state would gain nearly $6 billion in solutions if Propositions 1C, 1D and 1E pass, including $5 billion in 1C’s borrowing against the California Lottery.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I live there and love California, but the state has grown so large that the bureaucracies and special interests have pushed reason out the window.

    Take a short dig into the governor’s 2009-10 budget proposal (http://www.supportingevidence.com/Government/CA_Govt/CA_budget_09-10_proposed/CA_budget_prop_09-10_categories_all_funds.html) and see all the committees, commissions, advisory boards, and departments of this and that. How can these groups effectively communicate and coordinate their ‘work’? An incredible opportunity for wasted taxpayer money. I’m guessing we’ve got to be the most heavily-taxed citizens in the Union – where are all these $billions going?

    In gross terms, it looks like the budget is receding back to about the 2006-07 timeframe (http://www.supportingevidence.com/Government/CA_Govt/CA_budget_categories_06-10.html). Hey, call me a simplistic businessman, but if the state were run like a business, I think we’d be taking a serious look at what expenses were added between then and now and ask if we survived without it in 2006 and before, then maybe we can survive without it now.

    Thanks goodness that the feds are able to keep up their investment in California (http://www.supportingevidence.com/Government/CA_Govt/CA_budget_fed_st_over_time.html). I guess there’s a real advantage to being able to print money to ‘feed the beast’!

    I better get started on that apology letter to my kids right now.

    Very taxed in CA,

    Scott
    http://www.SupportingEvidence.com
    ‘worth a thousand words’


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