Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 23, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

CALIFORNIA INITIATIVES....I sort of promised last week to try and make some sense out of the initiatives on the California ballot. After all, I am Calpundit, right?

And I tried, I really did. But I failed. At least, I failed on the hard stuff. But before we get to that, let's go through the easy stuff:

  • Proposition 55 is a school bond, just a run-of-the-mill bond for repairing schools, fixing infrastructure, etc. My take: sure, go ahead and vote for it. On the other hand, if you hate bonds, vote against it. In any case, it's pretty straightforward and hardly requires any deep analysis.

  • Proposition 56 lowers the threshold for approving a budget from two-thirds to 55% and does the same for raising taxes. It's also got a few other minor goodies that its supporters are trying to pass off as reasons to vote for it ("legislators don't get to take bathroom breaks until a budget is passed!"), but don't believe it. Lowering the budget/tax threshold from two-thirds to 55% is what Prop 56 is all about.

    Personally, I've always felt that supermajorities were appropriate only for extraordinary actions such as amending the constitution, things that are supposed to be hard to do. But passing a budget and changing tax law is routine stuff, and I just don't see the point of requiring a two-thirds majority.

    Now it's true that there's a huge political subtext to this in California right now: Democrats control about 60% of the legislature, which means they can pass a budget all by themselves if they only need 55% but have to bargain with the Republicans if they need two-thirds. And Republicans haven't been in much of a bargaining mood lately.

    But you know what? That's how it works in nearly every other state already. What's more, the California governor has a line item veto, which means the Dems still need to negotiate with Arnold to get a budget passed.

    Bottom line: I'm going to vote Yes on this one. It makes sense.

  • Proposition 58 allegedly requires the legislature to pass a balanced budget and prevents them from ever again issuing bonds to cover an operating deficit. I have my doubts that it actually has any teeth, but I suppose it's worth a try. I'll vote Yes on this one.

And that brings us to Prop 57, Arnold's $15 billion bond measure. It's primarily meant to cover past debt (although a portion of it would be used for next year's budget), and since that past debt has already been incurred it seems like this bond really needs to be approved, even if you generally dislike the idea of using bonds to cover operating expenses.

But it's not clear to me what happens if this measure fails. (Actually, Prop 57 is just a safety measure, since the legislature already approved bonds last year to cover this debt. However, those bonds are being challenged in court. So what I really mean here is that it's not clear what happens if Prop 57 fails and the court overturns the existing bonds.)

Supposedly, fiscal disaster awaits us if Prop 57 fails, but even after a fair amount of searching I've been unable to verify this. So I don't know what to say about this one.

But I'll keep looking, and if I come up with a suitable answer I'll let everyone know. Deal?

Kevin Drum 9:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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