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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Vote No on California Proposition 31: Changes to State Budgeting

This is the second part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

Good Intentions…

Proposition 31 is a well-intentioned proposition. Unlike several of the propositions out there today, it’s not funded by special interests or companies looking to make a profit. It’s a proposition funded by California Forward, a group legitimately dedicated to reforming California’s budget. The folks at California Forward put a lot of time and thought into drafting this proposition; it’s basically a collection of reforms in the budgeting process that they think would best help the state.

More below.

Moreover, there are good things in Proposition 31. For instance, the two-year budget cycle contained in the proposition sounds like a good idea.

But I Don’t Understand It!

California has lots of propositions, and they generally do more bad than good. Indeed, a wise voter ought to reject the good majority of propositions that are put forward each year. That’s the philosophy that informs the approach this blog takes towards propositions.

A wise voter ought to be especially cautious with a proposition he or she doesn’t understand. If you don’t understand what a proposition does, or if you’re extremely confused by its wording, you should almost always vote no.

This proposition is both extremely complicated and quite confusing. There are a lot of big changes which have big, unknown effects on the state budget. The legislative analyst writes that the fiscal effects “cannot be predicted” quite a bit in its analysis. That’s worrying.

Take one part of the proposal. The proposition shifts quite a lot of authority to local governments. For instance:

Under this measure, counties and other local governments (such as cities, school districts, community college districts, and special districts) could create plans for coordinating how they provide services to the public. The plans could address how local governments deliver services in many areas, including economic development, education, social services, public safety, and public health. Each plan would have to be approved by the governing boards of the (1) county, (2) school districts serving a majority of the county’s students, and (3) other local governments representing a majority of the county’s population. Local agencies would receive some funding from the state to implement the plans (as described below).

There’s a ton of information packed into this short paragraph.

This change is made under the assumption that local goverments are more efficient. If it were proposed in the legislature lawmakers and their staff would probably have access to studies, surveys, and analyses on whether or not local governments actually are more efficient than the state government. Those studies and analyses would probably run up into the dozens of pages.

But voters just have this short little paragraph on one facet of the many facets of Proposition 31. For such a major change, it’s not enough.

Perhaps all the changes in Proposition 31 would be of great benefit. Perhaps they would be of great damage. I don’t know, especially since I have such a hard time understanding Proposition 31.

That’s why Californians should vote no on Proposition 31, come November 2012.