To the average Californian, the package of propositions on the May 19 special election ballot may seem like a jumbled mess of convoluted budget proposals.
That’s because it is.
The propositions are the result of months of intricate negotiations between the governor and Republicans and Democrats in the legislature. They are an attempt to address the state’s dire fiscal situation, and confusing as they may be, only the voters have the constitutional authority to approve these proposals.
At this point, California’s future rests in the hands of voters. It is extremely important that voters not only vote, but take the time to research the potential impact of each of these proposals passing or failing.
The California Aggie editorial board advises the following votes:
Prop 1A – YES. This measure creates a large rainy day fund as well as institutes a spending cap on future state budgets. These are much needed reforms that must be implemented if we want to stop budget crises like this year’s from happening again. While Prop 1A isn’t perfect – it grants a questionable amount of new authority to the governor – it is far better than doing nothing. Prop 1A is long overdue.
Prop 1B – NO. Prop 1B would mandate an extra $9.3 billion of spending on K-12 and community college education, money that many say the state has been improperly withholding from schools. While the intentions behind it are good, Prop 1B is the wrong answer to this problem. It would tie the hands of the state by forcing potentially excessive spending on education no matter how bad the budget is. This is the kind of policy that has gotten the state in so much trouble in recent years. What the legislature really needs is more flexibility, not more restrictions.
Prop 1C – YES. Prop 1C would modernize the state lottery with the expectation of increased revenues due to better marketing, payouts and management. The state would then borrow from these future profits to help pay for services now. Given that the state lottery has not been modernized in 25 years, this change seems reasonable, and it has worked well in other states. Additionally, this is the measure that will have the most immediate impact on the current budget by allowing up to $5 billion of borrowing.
Props 1D and 1E – NO. Both of these propositions alter programs that were approved by voters in 1998 and 2004, respectively. Prop 1D would take money from local children’s programs to pay for state children’s services programs. Prop 1E would take money from innovative new mental health programs to pay for services provided by the state. This is clearly not what voters wanted when they approved the original measures, and it would seriously hamper efforts to improve benefits to underserved communities. The costs outweigh the benefits for both 1D and 1E.
Prop 1F – YES. This proposal would prevent legislators and other top state officials from receiving pay increases in deficit budget years. The savings this measure would bring are extremely minimal. By preventing a 3 percent salary increase for legislators, for example, the state would only save $500,000. Nonetheless, there’s a small chance such a rule could encourage legislators to work harder to balance the budget. On the whole, the impact of this measure will probably be negligible, but beyond that there is not a strong argument against it.