A Progressive Alamedan

Various writings from a resident of Alameda regarding the political scene. The local perspective of local, state and national politics and a few other odds and ends of local concern. May not be particularly interesting to people outside of the Alameda area.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My "No" Endorsement on Propositions 1A-1F

I send out an occasional email to folks I know locally and around California before election time who might not read this blog. Without further ado, this is the core of a message I sent out yesterday:

You probably have already received your information and ballots, and probably some mailings as well about Propositions 1A -- especially 1A -- as well as 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, and 1F.

My super-condensed recommendation: JUST SAY NO. Please vote, definitely, but I'd be just as happy if you voted NO on every one -- well, especially 1A.

But you probably want a bit more detail and perspective and nuance, especially because you are going to be seeing and reading impassioned arguments on both sides of the issue over the days and weeks to come.

First off, who is behind these propositions? It's our state legislators - a democratic majority held hostage by a republican minority to trying to reach 2/3 majority to pass a budget for the state. Year after year, they have a horrible time keeping the state running because, to paraphrase my state Senator (I think it was her), "It's hard to make a deal with somebody who doesn't care about the outcome." These propositions were their Faustian bargain in order to get a budget passed and prevent the state government from shutting down a few months ago. So there is immense pressure by most of the legislators, and Governor Schwarzenegger, to pass this. (I should note that our local representatives, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson and Senator Loni Hancock are, bravely, standing in opposition to most other Democrats on this issue.)

The reason these propositions -- especially Proposition 1A, the main one -- are a bad idea is that they are a SHORT-TERM FIX with LONG-TERM DAMAGE to our constitution.

You will probably be getting a lot of pleas to pass these propositions from advocacy groups, especially education groups, saying that we must pass these or terrible things will happen. (I should point out that educators are actually quite split on the issue -- the California Teachers Association (CTA) is for 1A; the California Federation of Teachers and the California Faculty Association are against it.) We are indeed at a precipice but unfortunately with these temporary revenues (starting in two years!) comes a permanent spending cap on state services.

The League of Women Voters says that "this measure would only make things worse." I couldn't agree more. These ballot measures only fix a symptom rather than the fundamental underlying problem. Colorado implemented something like this in 1992 and has suffered greatly because of it.

In the weeks up to the Democratic Convention last week, the state legislators put tremendous pressure on delegates to get the Democratic Party to endorse these measures. Delegates have been deluged with emails, letters and circulars, and personal or robo-phone calls from our party leadership, begging us to endorse their compromise. But it didn't work. The grassroots know better. The party couldn't reach the required number of votes to show a party consensus on Proposition 1A and several others.

I am hoping that with the Republican party (except for Schwarzenegger) in opposition to 1A, and the Democratic Party not taking a position, that this measure and most of the other ones can be defeated, which just means that our representatives in Sacramento will have to continue to fight for a long-term solution. There will still be a lot of money spent on both sides, with most of the Pro-1A funding coming from the aforementioned CTA along with Schwarzenegger's PAC, the billionaire owner of Univision TV, and Chevron, for example. (Hmmm....)

So here is the breakdown on the propositions:

1A - A state spending cap. This is the poison pill that has to go along with 1B. If this passes we are in deep, deep trouble.

1B - Education funding. Looks good but here's the trick - it only goes into effect if Proposition 1A passes. So the Democratic Party came out in support of 1B, but as a symbolic gesture only. Some people are voting "yes" strategically so that if, worst-case, Proposition 1A were to pass, at least we'd get the short-term benefit. I'm inclined to "just say no" to the whole process.

1C - Sells bonds for education backed by lottery revenues. This one did get the nod from the Democratic Party though just barely, which I think is a shame. I agree with one opponent of this who said "balancing the budget on the backs of those who play the lottery is despicable and shameful."

1D, 1E - diverting funding for childhood services and mental health services. This has been described as robbing Peter to pay Paul. The amount of revenue this would save is trivial in any case.

1F - a time-waster initiative that will probably pass because it sounds like a good idea. This blocks pay raises for state officials if the budget is showing a deficit. Sounds like an OK idea on the surface, which is probably why it's doing so well in the polls. I really don't care one way or another if it passes. The Democratic party came out strongly in favor of it despite its many flaws for (as I see it) public relations purposes.

If you are interested in more, check out Calitics, a respected California political blog, which has a really good run-down of these measures, with much more analysis than I can muster.


And here are the LWV's positions:

But feel free to ask me if you have any thoughts or questions. I'm by no means the expert on this whole thing, but I talked to a lot of people on both sides of these ballot measures, so maybe I can help you come to a decision for your vote.

And as always, feel free to forward this missive along to your friends and neighbors.


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