Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Propositions 1A and 1B

Warning – ranty post below.

Originally I planned to write an entry for each of the six ballot propositions, and explore them separately, but there is no separating 1B from 1A (for reasons tobeexplained below) so I am going to treat them as a package.

First of all, let’s look at the two measures as they appear on the ballot:

Proposition 1A. State Budget. Changes California Budget Process. Limits State Spending. Increases “Rainy Day” Budget Stabilization Fund — State of California (Legislative Constitutional Amendment – Majority Approval Required)
Changes the budget process. Could limit future deficits and spending by increasing the size of the state “rainy day” fund and requiring above-average revenues to be deposited into it, for use during economic downturns and other purposes.

Proposition 1B. Education Funding. Payment Plan — State of California (Legislative Constitutional Amendment – Majority Approval Required)
Requires supplemental payments to local school districts and community colleges to address recent budget cuts.

Now, something important that does not come across from these is that 1B can only be enacted if 1A also passes. The relevant text in 1B, for the record:

Measure Linked to Proposition 1A. The funding mechanism for making the supplemental payments established in this measure is provided in Proposition 1A, also on this ballot. That measure establishes a Supplemental Education Payment Account and requires the state to annually deposit 1.5 percent of General Fund revenues into the account, beginning in 2011–12. These funds would be put into the account annually until the entire $9.3 billion in supplemental payments had been provided. If Proposition 1A is not approved by the voters, the provisions of this measure would not go into effect, and there would be no obligation to make $9.3 billion in supplemental payments. situation. Method of Paying Maintenance Factor Also Unclear. The second issue relates to how the maintenance factor (from previous years) is paid in a Test 1 year. One interpretation is that maintenance factor payments are to be made on top of the Test 1 level. A second interpretation is that maintenance factor payments are to be made on top of the Test 2 level. Because the Test 1 level is expected to be significantly higher than the Test 2 level in 2009–10, the first interpretation could result in a significantly higher minimum guarantee in 2009–10.

Basically, this is candy thrown at the teacher’s union to get them to support 1A, which is really not in the citizens’ true interest to support. As things are now, the budget is full of obscure formulas amended to the constitution by previous voter propositions (including 98, and 13). 1A uses a linear regression to determine the historic trends that would contribute to this new “rainy day fund”, which is not inherently bad, but it is math that is above what most people care to understand. It also is full of ifs and maybes, and new taxes (which I mentioned before – increased sales tax and personal income tax – while at the same time corporate income tax is being cut). I am not inherently against new taxes, of course, but the places where the taxes are added and where they are cut seem to be misguided, and are only there because the Republican minority only cares about Big Business, as opposed to the Democratic majority who care about Big Business and the common citizen (a small but important difference).

Anyway, here’s the thing – legislators are elected to do a job. The job description includes creating the state budget. They fail at their job, and they expect the people who elected them to come save them. That’s just ludicrous. They think that having the budget 100% codified in the state constitution will protect their interests – and maybe it would protect some GOP interests, but it’s not the way you run a state. You can’t codify any situation, and it seems like all this work is to prevent a problem that already happened, without dealing with the possibilities of other problems. It’s a so-called “band-aid’ solution – cover up the wound, pretend it has gone away, and meanwhile the state bleeds out.

In my work experience I’ve heard a phrase “disagree and commit” this is something one might do when they realize that the majority is against them in a situation, they want to make it known that they are against what is going on, but that they will commit to doing what the majority is for to the best of their ability. If the minority of the state legislature had a microgram of honor or respectability in them they would do this very thing in order to pass a budget – then they could say “I told you so” if and when it failed, and then get big gains in the next election. Of course they know that’s not going to happen because most of the state does not believe in their policies, but because of Prop 13, they can throw a childish hissy fit and shoehorn their way in.

I want to be clear, I’m all for giving money to education, and I respect the idea of prop 1B (if not the means that would get the end) but this is a case where I firmly believe the means do not justify the end. The only way to fix education and the budget over all is with real reform – probably repealing all the budget related amendments and amending the Constitution to make ballot prop amendments much harder to initiate and pass. I firmly believe the populists who created the California ballot initiative system had the best interest of the population in heart, but were rather shortsighted and did not see how easily it could be exploited.

Another argument against these overall is that the amendments that we already have aren’t even being properly followed. 1B is basically a “catch-up” proposition for the twenty year old Prop 98, which mandated K-14 spending which just didn’t happen. Why should we believe that anything else that is codified in the constitution will happen (well that’s not in Prop 13, which clearly does happen).

Basically, since I don’t believe in 1A at all, that also means that I am against 1B, although I am not strongly against it. It’s all shell games though, and the best way to win those is not to play.

posted by neil at 2:43 pm
under 2009 special election,politics  

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