Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | May 5, 2009

Tough love for state government

Last time, I shared my frustration most items on the May 19 special election ballot. Since then, I’ve weighed the pros and cons and marked and returned my ballot: Here’s how I voted:

• Yes on Measure A – Morgan Hill residents are being asked to amend the city’s residential development control system to move 500 housing units to a 20-block area in and around downtown. It’s an easy yes. Measure A costs residents nothing and doesn’t alter the city’s population cap. It simply ensures that 500 housing units will be built near downtown, which benefits the entire city. It reduces housing development on the city’s fringes, where city services are more expensive to deliver. It increases the number of people living in and near downtown, which helps create a vibrant downtown, and enhances the city’s investments downtown.

• Yes on Proposition 1F – Here’s another easy yes. It speaks volumes — and none of it good — about our state legislators that they could not pass a legislative version of Prop 1F themselves. Why do they need voter approval to forgo raises (note, not pay, pay raises) during deficit years? 1F has little fiscal impact, but there’s a lot to be said for leading by example.

Every other item on the ballot earned a no vote:

• No on Proposition 1A – Despite promises to the contrary, Prop 1A won’t fix the state’s chronic budget problems. The nonpartisan legislative analyst’s office wrote on March 13, “Our updated revenue forecast projects that revenues will fall short of the assumptions … by $8 billion. Moreover, a number of the adopted solutions … are of a short–term duration. Thus, without corrective actions, the state’s huge operating shortfalls will reappear in future years—growing from $12.6 billion in 2010–11 to $26 billion in 2013–14.”

I’ve had enough of smoke-and-mirror budget gimmicks. If the failure of 1A ends legislators’ addiction to them, that’s a good thing. It’s long past time to address the state’s budget honestly and realistically.

Where to start?

Let’s close Prop 13 loopholes that allow many commercial transfers of real properties to occur without reassessment. Consider how real estate valuations in California have skyrocketed in the 31 years since Prop 13 was passed and you’ll realize how much tax revenue has been lost and how much homeowners, especially new homeowners, are subsidizing California businesses. One estimate puts the loss at $5 billion per year.

Let’s decriminalize marijuana usage (not just medical marijuana) and tax its manufacture, distribution and sale.

Let’s reconsider every pricey state commission and rid ourselves of many of them. Those that remain must reorganize for maximum efficiency and productivity. Wikipedia lists more than 500 California “agencies, departments, and commissions.” Do we need all of them? I sincerely doubt it.

Let’s demand that politicians put the interests of the state first — not their interest in garnering endorsements and donations — and negotiate serious concessions, especially in the area of pensions, from state workers. This has already occurred in the auto industry; similar concessions will also be necessary at all levels of the public sector.

Let’s require our paid-tops-in-the-nation state legislators to lead by example: A 20-percent pay cut still leaves them earning more than $10,000 per year more than their closest peers in Michigan and New York. Failure of 1A sends legislators and the governor back to work with clear direction to end the games and get serious.

• No on Proposition 1B – Prop 1B can only take effect if both it and Prop 1A pass. Because I’m voting no on 1A, a no vote on 1B is my only logical option.

• No on Proposition 1C – Prop 1C has a fatal flaw, borrowing against expected lottery revenue, that compels me to vote against it. This is exactly the kind of smoke-and-mirrors budget gimmick that our legislators are apparently unable to resist.

• No on Proposition 1D – This deceptively written proposition will divert money from local First Five programs to the state’s general fund. 1D doesn’t “protect” children’s services funding, it puts it in grave danger.

• No on Proposition 1E – Like 1D, 1E is shamefully deceptive. It will divert funding from mental health services to the general fund. It puts federal funds at risk. It’s a bad idea.

Props 1A through 1E aren’t fixes to the state’s budget woes. They’re desperate attempts at more-of-the-same budgeting. They do not recognize California’s structural budget problems. They deserve to be rejected.



  1. […] the parties to this discussion implied that voters who oppose some or all of the statewide props (I voted no on all but 1F) are acting out of blind emotion rather than […]

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