Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sparks Along The Third Rail, Part 4

The GOP caucus in the CA state Senate has ousted Dave Codgill, one of the Big 5 that negotiated the proposed budget "deal". Codgill has been replaced by Dennis Hollinsworth of Riverside County, a member from the GOP's "conservative wing" (caw! caw!).

The obvious take-away is that there will be no "third Republican vote" in favor of the budget. 

More important, the linked article provides us with some details of the proposed budget deal (stories about the impasse have focused on the "frustrating" quest for GOP support, rather than on the outline of the proposed deal). At the end there is  a short description of the 5(!) funding revisions that California voters will have to approve in order for the proposed budget to work as planned.

If the state budget proposal is approved, a special election will be held May 19 to decide how the state raises and spends much of the money. Five measures would be on the ballot, including revisions to three voter-approved measures spelled out in the budget that voters must decide:

State lottery - Would allow the state to borrow $5 billion against future lottery revenue and use the funds for something other than schools.

Proposition 98 - Would revise the school funding requirement to change where some of the money will come from and what it covers.

Proposition 63 - Would allow $460 million to be spent on existing mental health programs for two years, overturning the measure's ban on using the money for current programs.

Proposition 10 - Would eliminate the state's First 5 commission and take $340 million from the program to use for existing children's programs.

Spending cap - A constitutional amendment would limit spending and put excess revenue into a rainy-day fund for lean years.

By my count there are three measures that would affect older propositions that were passed "for the children:" the state lottery, Prop 98, and Prop 10. You may remember Prop 10. That was passed thanks to the pompous advocacy of Rob Reiner. 

The GOP will likely never approve any further tax increases (the state takes enough as it is, and is driving away business). But, the interest groups who are some of the Dems biggest allies - teachers' unions, public employee unions, health advocates - will NEVER allow these funding changes to be voted on without a fight. The attack ads practically write themselves.

This is a prime example of how warped CA's Proposition system has become. Too much of the budget is locked into "feel good" measures like the above. They are voted on based purely on emotional appeals with no sense of their fiscal impact. Trying to change them through further propositions would seem to provoke just as much bad decision making. What happens if 2 pass, but 3 don't?

The GOP would impress me if they demand one thing in these negotiations: make it much more difficult to place further propositions on the ballot. 

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