Proposition 1D is an attempt by state lawmakers to avoid cuts in general fund-supported state spending. It would overturn Proposition 10, passed in 1998, which earmarks tobacco tax revenue in California for First 5 early childhood programs throughout the state.
Both proponents and opponents of Proposition 1D will tell you one thing – look at the facts. The proposition would divert $268 million in annual tobacco tax revenue and the $340 million First 5 has in reserve away from First 5 and into the state’s general fund. The state will have to find $608 million from somewhere else if 1D does not pass.
Finding any revenue at all to address the budget deficit is hard for state lawmakers; finding a different $608 million will present a difficult task for the state senate.
Given this, we still recommend voting against Proposition 1D.
The First 5 program in Yolo County currently has an annual budget of approximately $3.5 million. Last year they spent $3.1 million to aid approximately 10,000 children in Yolo County.
If Proposition 1D were to pass, the First 5 Yolo program would have its funding severely cut. Estimates suggest that programs and outreach would be reduced to reaching only 5,000 children. In addition to the 50 percent drop in number of children reached, approximate funds per child would plummet from $199 per year to $87 per year.
Those in support of 1D say that the money cut from First 5 would be spent on other state government health and human services programs such as Medicaid, foster care, child care subsidies and preschool programs. While this might be true, voters would have to rely on state lawmakers to keep their word, as nothing guarantees that the money will be spent in these areas, only that it is possible. Nothing in the language of Proposition 1D suggests that now is a good time to start trusting politicians.
Moreover, First 5 programs are already addressing the areas listed above. Although these programs “only” aid children from birth to age five, we feel that these years are the most important for children to get the attention, education and healthcare they need.
Supporters of Proposition 1D also point out that First 5 programs have a vast sum of money that is currently unspent. The fact is that the majority of this money, rather than moldering away in a vault as some would suggest, is tied up as money First 5 needs to fund its multi-year contracts. These are contracts and multi-year plans that have been painstakingly mapped out to provide maximum benefit for children as they grow up. Shifting the First 5 reserves to the state’s general fund would cut these contracts short and leave millions of children in the lurch.
Programs and departments all over the state are being forced to cut their budgets. Everyone from law enforcement to the offices of higher education in the state has had to make sacrifices. The only reason to make such sacrifices is to make sure that the state doesn’t collapse. We don’t want the state to collapse. We want our children to have a stable, prosperous place to grow up in. Given this long-term goal of improving the quality of life for future generations, it would seem the height of foolishness to hamstring the funding of a program that is currently doing exactly that.
State lawmakers should sit down and have a productive dialogue with First 5 representatives in order to reach a mutually beneficial compromise, rather than the hasty, drastic action they are currently trying to enact.
Until such a compromise can be reached, we urge everyone to vote against Proposition 1D.