The Claremont Institute's Golden State Center presents a new report analyzing the upcoming Propositions 1A-F on California's May 19, 2009 special election, Grading the Propositions, by Tom Karako. The full report may be downloaded HERE.
On May 19, Californians will go to the polls. There they will be asked to render judgment upon six complicated ballot measures, Propositions 1A-F. The combined financial implication of these propositions is in the billions, and they come at a time when our state is facing the largest budget crisis in its 159-year history.
Are these six ballot measures good for California? Will they help remedy California's broken financial and budgeting system? These are questions of good government, and they are non-partisan.
On balance, it seems to us that these measures fall far short of the needed reforms, in either the short- or long-term. Some propositions threaten to prolong and even worsen California's systemic fiscal problems.
The following is an assessment of the individual propositions on their respective merits as a matter of public policy. For simplicity and to help clarify their content, we've given them nicknames and graded them as follows:
1A "The Tax Increase" Grade: F 1B "The Teachers' Union Special" Grade: F 1C "Gambling with the Lottery" Grade: C 1D-E "Moving Money Around I & II" Grade: C+ 1F "Legislators' Guilty Consciences" Grade: F
Collectively, the propositions ask Californians for permission to borrow additional billions, to move money around between programs, and to extend tax increases through 2012.
Propositions 1A and 1B threaten to harm California's economy with tax extensions its citizenry cannot afford, make the budget process even more complicated, further ensconce education spending from legislative oversight and meaningful reform, and make future budgeting even more difficult. We have given both 1A and 1B a failing grade of "F."
Proposition 1C may be needed to alleviate short-term budget shortfall without raising taxes, but does so with potentially severe long-term costs. Thus we have given Proposition 1C a grade of "C."
Propositions 1D-E hold out some prospect of alleviating the short-term budget crisis while also pointing to the need for more general flexibility and responsibility among the legislators to prioritize and reallocate funds. For this reason we have given 1D-E a grade of "C+."
Proposition 1F would neither help nor harm the state budget. Instead, 1F gives a false impression that voters were somehow punishing their legislators. With voters laboring under such a delusion, they may be less inclined to exact real accountability from their elected officials at the ballot box. We also give 1F a failing grade of "F."
The full report, Grading the Propositions, may be downloaded HERE.
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