Tag Archives: Prop 1A

Wonky Radio Programs of the Week

There were a couple of programs that might interest Calitics readers on KQED’s Forum this week.

John Burton talking about his new gig as CDP Chair

A discussion of Prop 1A

They have a program about Props 1B and 1C scheduled for Monday at 10am. You can find the full archive of Forum’s programs here and their website here.

If you have a suggestion, toss it out in the comments.

Progressives Struggling with the Props while Field Shows Californians Want Something for Nothing

I am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

As the California Democratic Party endorsements showed, progressives are struggling with the May 19 elections.  On one side, you see some pretty progressive elected officials, like Bass and Steinberg, and organizations, like the California Teachers Association. Yet, it is clear that none of these fronts are really unified.  Not all of the legislators are supporting the May 19 props. Asms. Sandre Swanson and Warren Furutani are opposing Prop 1A.  And the education community is not unified either:

“It’s not comfortable to be in the position of disagreeing with our state organization,” said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, which represents about 2,800 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians in the city’s public schools.

Still, Olson-Jones said, “We really cannot, in all good conscience, support any measure that would cap and cut vital social services, because they are needed by our students.”(OakTrib 4/29/09)

In fact, Bay Area Progressives seem to be a major problem for the Yes on 1A-F campaign.  The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, a large and active bunch, went no on the whole lot, and the San Francisco Young Democrats went No on A, C, D, and E. And yesterday, the SF Bay Guardian, the progressive newspaper of the Bay Area, went no on all 6 measures. They make similar points to the Calitics endorsements, specifically that the measures will “lock the state in a fiscal straitjacket.”

We’ve listened to both sides, researched the measures in depth, and concluded that the best choice for Californians is to reject Propositions 1A through 1F. The proposal may address (most of) this year’s budget woes and keep the state running for a while, but it will create a fiscal straightjacket on the order of Proposition 13 that will damage California and undermine any progressive policy hopes for many, many years into the future. If the voters accept this deal today, they’ll come to regret it. (SFBG 4/29/09)

The Guardian also acknowledged the growing progressive discontent with the measures. It was on full display at the CDP convention, and doesn’t look to be quieting down. The Prop 1A spending cap just makes the package a difficult pill to swallow, and the Props D & E cuts to vital services don’t  endear themselves to progressives either.

UPDATE: This Field Poll (PDF) on the fact that Californians don’t want more taxes but don’t want cuts is quite relevant to the discussion. Of twelve subject areas that Field asked about, Californians only support cuts to prisons (59%…oh, me too!) and state parks (51%).  Other spending programs are widely supported, with law enforcement cuts (23%) and education cuts (25%) being the least popular.

Somewhere along the line, Californians have come to believe that we can have our cake and eat it too. That we can have impossibly low taxes and yet still provide the services that our state needs.  Where, oh where, could they have heard that.  Oh, right, that’s pretty much the Bush Administration in a nutshell, and how Arnold came to power in 2003 with his “car tax” rhetoric. The negative effects of the constant tax-cutting message of people like Arnold and those on his right flank has come home to roost.  And we as Democrats have been shy about telling any other story.  The poll bears this out by reporting that about 70% of Californians support the 2/3 majority for taxation.

California is in an impossible situation, the voters expect everything, and expect to pay nothing for it. I’m beginning to think that Treasurer Lockyer wasn’t really that far off when he said that higher ed institutions might not open up next year.  That might not even be the worst of our problems if Californians don’t begin to conceptualize how government actually works.

When David Meets Goliath, Goliath usually wins. But David Keeps Fighting.

I’m quite proud to be working for the No on Prop 1A campaign. More details about that here.

I’m still sitting in the Resolutions Committee meeting. I’ve been here for almost five hours, but most of the drama was compressed into the first hour or so. Dave described the situation of the hearings on the resolution committee for the props, and all that sounds about right.

I’m used to being outgunned, but there was a deafening silence after I spoke against Prop 1A. Nobody else on the resolutions committee spoke out against the proposition. I, alone, was running the opposition against what will be the most profound change to our budgeting system since the notorious Proposition 13 in 1978. It was a heady responsibility to be the lone voice against a sitting Assembly member that I normally agree with, Kevin De Leon. Along with California Faculty Association Presiden Lillian Taiz, I was challenging the Leader of the State Senate, Darrell Steinberg.

And thus I became David to a Goliath I never expected to challenge. I have such enormous respect for Sen. Steinberg, and nearly always agree with his politics. But, Proposition 1A is simply wrong for the state of California.  The extra $16 Billion in revenues in the out years is simply not worth the additional dysfunction that the spending cap will impart on the state.

But this David lives to fight another day, as the endorsement must proceed through the floor session on Sunday. I know that the grassroots of the state party will have something else to say about the matter. And together, a lot of Davids can be a pretty formidable challenge for ol’ Mr. Goliath.

Dressing Up A Dog: Prop 1A

I’m quite proud to be working for the No on Prop 1A campaign. More details about that here.

The Yes on Prop 1A campaign has a daunting task in trying to get the voters of California to support the Frankensteinian creation that is Prop 1A.  After all, support is hovering around 29% now. So, like I did with Squirrel in her Darth Vader costume, the Prop 1A campaign is trying to do with their dog.

Let’s start at the top: Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a meeting with the Bay Area Council, yesterday said this:

“We are one of the only state’s that don’t have a rainy day fund… so Prop 1A [will be a historic reform if it passes.]”

Except, wait, where have I heard that? Right, that was in the ballot argument for Prop 58 (PDF):

WILL require general funds to be put in a “Rainy Day” fund to build a RESERVE to protect California from future economic downturns. The Budget Stabilization Account will also be used to pay off the California Economic Recovery Bond early;

Wow, how quickly Arnold forgets his own propositions.  It’s easy, I suppose, when they have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

And then there’s the ads.  The Budget Reform Now Committee, that would be the Yes on 1A-F campaign in campaign-speak, released an ad for the teevee. I enjoy that on their web page (and in any YouTube embed), the ad is up there with a one star rating. As for the content of the ad, it is, shall we say, only honest in a way that a political consultant could love. You can peep the whole ad, in all its widescreen glory, over the flip.

The ad is just about as confusing as the measure itself, which is saying quite a bit. For example, the actor in the ad says that “Prop 1A will give us budget stability.” Beyond the fact that we’ve heard that one before, oh, about four years ago with Props 57 & 58, there is the troubling matter of the huge structural budget deficit that Prop 1A leaves in its wake.  

According to the California Budget Project’s report on Prop 1A (PDF), the projected revenue cap will be $16 billion lower than the Governor’s “baseline” spending in 2010-2011, followed by $17 and $21 billion in the next two years. Thus, we’ll have to either raise taxes or decrease spending. That’s hardly the stability we need.

Or how about the somewhat audacious claim that Prop 1A will “help hold the line on higher taxes.”  While I’m not one to concern myself with that particular issue, the claim is deceptive at best.  Ignoring the extended sales tax for the out years, if Prop 1A does anything, it encourages taxes.  The most efficient way of resetting the cap is to, drumroll please, raise taxes.

This ad does its best to dress up a dog, but Californians are saying that this dog just won’t hunt.

Prop 1A needs to be defeated, and I’m going to help.

When the time came to make a decision on the propositions, it was with a heavy heart that I chose to oppose Prop 1A. I understand the difficult position that the legislators face. Republicans in the Legislature are amusing themselves with death-talk of the California state government.  It really is quite scary stuff. Yet despite the loaded gun pointing to our head, it is imperative that California has a government moving towards a more functioning structure, not in the other direction.

And that is the problem with Prop 1A. It moves us in the wrong direction. It moves us towards more hurdles, not less. Whether it is or isn’t a spending cap (depending on who you talk to) isn’t as important when it is considered in the context that this is one additional layer of dysfunction on top of an already dysfunctional system. During my appearance on KALW’s Your Call Radio (podcast here), I had a chance to discuss the problems with Prop 1A, and truly this is the one that would really leave a welt on our governance going forward.

It is because of this dysfunction that I will be working with the No on Prop 1A campaign for the next month leading up to the election trying to get the message out about why this proposition is wrong for California. This is a progressive campaign, funded and led by progressive organizations like the SEIU state council, the California Federation of Teachers, and the California Faculty Association.  It is imperative that there be a progressive voice explaining why Prop 1A is wrong for California rather than just leaving the opposition to be defined by the ravings of the Howard Jarvis Tax Association and their fellow anti-government winger friends. And that is all the more important with the polling now showing disastrous numbers for Prop 1A. In a CBS 5/SurveyUSA poll 42% of voters said they certain to vote ‘No’, while 29% were certain to vote ‘Yes.’ All of the demos for this are horrible, with none exceeding 36% support.  There are a lot of reasons for that, but it is critical that California’s leaders understand that HJTA doesn’t speak for us, but that Californians really want a well-functioning government for the long-term.

As always, I’ll disclose my affiliation when discussing Prop 1A. However, as a point of transparency, I was neither a part of the campaign nor in discussions with the campaign before we released the Calitics Ed Board endorsements on the special election.

Now that that is out of the way, I look forward to working to defeat this measure. If you have any questions for the campaign, please email me. I’ll do my best to answer them or direct you to somebody who can.  If you’d like more information about Prop 1A, you can check out our *brand spanking new website,  follow us on Twitter and join our group on Facebook.

What Democratic Clubs and Groups Oppose Prop 1A?

Quick question?

What Democratic Clubs and Groups Oppose Prop 1A?

We’ve seen individual posts on some clubs opposing 1A, but I don’t think we’ve seen a comprehensive list.  Since the opposition campaign to 1A is just now up and running, I’m wondering if we should keep a list of group and clubs we know about that are opposing this disaster of a proposition?

Any clubs and groups you know of?  

Calitics Ed. Board Says No on Special Election Initiatives

For more information about Calitics and the editorial board, see our About Calitics page.

During the budget week from hell, we mildly cheered on the progress of the budget process. We were concerned about the short-term budget issues, but were also dismayed by the rapid rightward shift of the negotiations.  Unfortunately, as an Editorial Board we simply cannot support the measures as they have been brought to the May 19 Special Elections Ballot. We share the concerns of the League of Women Voters that this package was poorly designed and poorly executed, resulting in a plan that will ultimately create more harm than good. And since none of these measures address the structural revenue gap, adding another layer to an already suffocating fiscal straightjacket makes no sense whatsoever.

We do not appreciate the fearmongering message from supporters of the initiatives, who obviously can’t find anything to recommend in these solutions and thusly must warn of impending doom in order to get them passed.  We remind voters the words of Bill Clinton: “If one candidate’s trying to scare you, and the other one’s trying to get you to think… if one candidate’s appealing to your fears, and the other one’s appealing to your hopes, you’d better vote for the one who wants you to think and hope.”

Prop 1A – State Spending Cap. NO

Beginning with Prop 1A, the heart of this package, we cannot do better than the LWV in briefly describing the flaws:

[Prop 1A] would actually make it more difficult for future governors and legislatures to enact budgets that meet California’s needs and address state priorities. It would amend the state Constitution to dictate restrictions on the use of funds put into the reserve and limit how “unanticipated” revenues can be used in good years. It could lock in a reduced level of public services by not taking proper account of the state’s changing demographics and actual growth in costs. Prop 1A would also give future governors new power to make budget cuts without legislative oversight. Like the other propositions opposed by the League on this ballot, Prop 1A came from a deeply flawed process that resulted in measures written in haste and without public input or analysis. The League would support real budget reform, but we regretfully conclude that this measure would only make things worse. (League of Women Voters)

And there’s actually much more.  We don’t have to guess about the impact of spending caps.  In 1992, Colorado instituted a spending cap as part of TABOR, and within a few years spending on education, health care, and practically all other measures of government dropped from the middle of the pack relative to other states to almost dead last in every category.  Considering that California ALREADY ranks near the bottom in these categories, the result would be even more disastrous.  The California Budget Project estimates that the cap would force the state to reduce expenditures $16 billion dollars below the Governor’s baseline spending projections by 2010, $17 billion by 2011 and $21 billion by 2012.  That’s a FAR BIGGER gap than the two years of tax revenues that would be lost by voting down 1A.  These revenues are highly unlikely to ever be recovered, because of the faulty indexing of the cap and the fact that it’s based on a level of revenues made during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  And Democrats claiming that there’s an ingenious “out” of the spending cap because it could be raised if taxes are raised neglect to mention that this doesn’t apply to fees, which would essentially end any efforts to work around the conservative veto by raising revenues through fees to fill a budget gap.  In fact, the way the spending cap is structured, it would force contributions into the rainy day fund EVEN IN DOWN BUDGET YEARS.

Failure of Prop 1A would indeed reduce funding to our government in 2011-2013.  Yet this assumes that legislators could never deal with revenues in the intervening two years. Further, the increased revenues we would receive from Prop 1A are simply not worth the long-term damage to our government that this measure would create.  That’s why the CTA and the Democratic establishment worked so hard to defeat a similar spending cap plan in 2005.

Prop 1B – Education Funding. Payment Plan. NO

Prop 1B isn’t really inherently bad.  It is simply made irrelevant by our position on Prop 1A through a clause that takes 1B down if Prop 1A fails. It provides a workaround to a disputed technical question in Proposition 98 by setting up a one-time $9.3 Billion fund for education.  If this didn’t come with the baggage of Prop 1A, it would be worth considering. But as it stands, we simply cannot accept the pair.  That being said, if Prop 1A passes, it is important that Prop 1B passes. If we were to vote strategically, we would vote No on 1A and Yes on 1B, but we leave that decision to you.

It is worth noting that Prop 1B would not provide a solution to the catastrophic financial crisis facing public education in this state, and would do little if anything to help the 26,000+ teachers who received a layoff notice last month keep their jobs in the fall. Since Prop 1B’s effects are not permanent, it would not exempt public education from the likelihood of funding shortfalls that Prop 1A would produce. Education has already suffered enough from one-time short-term budget deals that produced long-term problems.

Proposition 1C – Securitization of the lottery. NO

Prop 1C would allow the Treasurer to sell bonds backed by the lottery revenues. The budget deal assumes that we will get $5 billion for this deal, but that number remains highly speculative. However, our opposition does not stem chiefly from any quibble with the amount of money it would bring in, but rather from our overall sense of failed governance that emanates from the entire package and this  proposition specifically.  George Skelton calls this proposition a “payday loan” and no better words could describe this.

The fact is that we have done this before and it failed. Back in 2004 after Arnold wiped out the dreaded “car tax” he came to the voters of this state complaining about how we are going to fix this budget. So, he told us that if we just passed props 57 and 58 to sell some bonds and tweak the budget process, he’d handle it from there.  Needless to say, the problem was exacerbated rather than ameliorated, in particular because the state NEVER SOLD THE BONDS.  If this package represented real reform that would allow the state to move forward with an honest and democratic budget process, this would be more palatable.  If we knew that we wouldn’t just be back in the exact same situation 18 months from now, this might even be a reasonable idea to dig ourselves out of a very deep hole.

As it is, we’d prefer to wait for something real.

Prop 1D – Diverts $600 Million from Prop 10 First Five funds to other childhood programs. – NO

The First Five Program was created in 1998 by the passage of Proposition 10.  By raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack, California was able to create a sustainable program with its own source of revenue.  But that has always been a thorn in the craw of the right-wing Republicans.  It is spending they cannot touch for programs they would rather not fund.  But the First 5 commission has been successful in providing funding for innovative and successful programs.  And the commission’s own prudence has led it to the chopping block.  They planned for the inevitable decrease in cigarette taxes by building up a cash reserve, and that money has grown too tempting for the Legislature. It is a pot of money, and they cannot resist.

Rather than raiding First 5, we should have provided a sustainable revenue for the state. We should not abide by these budget gimmicks and ploys, and First 5 should not be their victim.

Prop 1E – Diverting Mental Health Services Funding – NO

This initiative would cut into the Prop 63 (2005) money for mental health services from the 1% surcharge on income over a million dollars.  Although this slash job wasn’t as bad as what was suffered by First 5, as it has a prominent defender, it is still unacceptable.  Mental health services are financially prudent spending. It saves money that will end up being spent elsewhere, whether for homeless services or prisons.  Diverting this revenue is penny wise and pound foolish. Both Prop 1D and 1E come from the “rob Peter to pay Paul” school of budgeting, although in this case “Peter” is young children and Californians with mental health needs who have few defenders or other resources to fall back on.

Prop 1F – Wasting Your Time. An Initiative. – NO

Prop 1F would block any pay raise for legislators when the budget is showing a deficit.  It is an infinitesimally small amount of money in the grand scheme of things and accomplishes remarkably little for something on a statewide ballot.   First, not getting a raise in deficit years is not a sufficient incentive for anyone to actually do anything, nor is it really meaningful shared suffering.  The implicit assumption that the trivial penalty of Proposition 1F could be a meaningful incentive to not run a deficit treats elected officers as greedy sociopathic children who need petty personal financial incentives to deal with the state’s budget.  Building this assumption into the California Constitution is unnecessary and further entrenches in the state constitution far-right market fundamentalism and contempt for the role of government.

Second, if we’re going to constitutionally impose shared suffering or financial penalties on elected officials, why is it a balanced budget that’s the trigger?  Why not base it on the number of California’s children in poverty, the condition of our infrastructure, the state of our parks, the number of homeless, the funding levels of our schools?  Instead, Proposition 1F privileges a morally blind view of the world — balanced budgets are the only measure of legislative accomplishment for which elected officers can be penalized financially.  Why this needs to be on the ballot can be answered only by Abel Maldonado, but it’s a nothing more than an ill-conceived placebo designed to placate angry voters — and so will no doubt pass. However, we don’t need to countenance Abel’s temper tantrums.

Why don’t we go ahead and beatify Tom Campbell already

I’ve been reading a bunch of stories about Tom Campbell, and I’m pretty sure that he is the greatest person in the history of all politics EVER! He’s brilliant and really far more serious than any of us silly “partisans” could ever dream of being. He’s sincere and never takes any of those hippy or fascist positions.  Really, this is the greatest man since, well, Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 2003.

That was actually pretty hard to write, but it’s not all that far off from the tone of the coverage that Campbell is getting.  Take this  Skelton column from today’s LA Times today:

Tom Campbell is a rarity. He’s a politician who carefully thinks through contentious issues and takes positions based on his notion of good government.

Good politics seem to be a low priority, if one at all.

Not that all politicians are finger-to-the-wind opportunists. Each varies by degree between being a policy wonk and political survivalist. But Democrats tend to genuflect to labor, particularly public employee unions. Republicans tend to cower before the anti-tax crowd, to name one.

Campbell is practically all wonk.

And he must have missed the memo to rookie politicians about going along to get along.(LA Times 4/9/09)

I will say this, Campbell is fairly wonky. And compared to the Governator, he is far more introspective and far less showman. But, you know, Arnold is an actor and a professional showman, so that’s hardly saying much.

There’s this emphasis in Sacramento, but in politics generally, to always look for the next great moderate hope.  And apparently this time, the focus has settled squarely upon Tom Campbell.  He opposed Prop 8, which gives him solid cred on the socially progressive vote in the Republican party.  All seventeen of them statewide.  

And boy is he serious.  I mean he’s so serious that he supports Prop 1A, but not Prop 1B.  That’ll really show those crybaby school kids.  We’ll cut and cap spending and then make sure schools get less than they are legally entitled to under Prop 98.  That’s very serious indeed.  From Debra Saunders:

With his service in Congress, the state Senate and then as Schwarzenegger’s state finance director, however, Campbell told me, “I am banking on the electorate to favor experience in government.”

That’s some bet. … Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, noted that as with Davis, Campbell’s only hope would be “if Poizner and Whitman knock each other off – and that’s a possibility.”

“Maybe competence wins out,” Stern added.

Well, that would be something.  Competence winning out over money and right-wing nuttery? Well, long shot indeed. Saunders goes on to note that Campbell is the guy trying to win by supporting Prop 1A (but not 1B, but I digress).  Perhaps it would be nice if the Republican party had more people like Tom Campbell and even a few to his left.  But the unhappy lesson from the Republican electorate at the Sacramento state convention right after the budget deal was not that they should be more moderate, but that they must make every effort to be completely inflexible.  Completely ignore the situation that’s actually happening and how to address the problems, and just be Grover-zombies.

The fact is that Campbell is really no moderate in the classical sense. He’s moderate only because the Republicans have gone insane. Read his take on the issues of the day. They are moderate if and only if you take the ever-rightward-shifting pole of the Republican party.

But, Tom Campbell is serious and silly bloggers are not.  So, I’ll do my best not to interfere with any of his very serious work.

Get Used to This: Special Election or Die

You know how the Republicans had a gun to the heads of the Democrats over the budget?  Well, it is not pointing at the legislators any more. It’s still there, of course.  Now, it’s pointed directly at the voters.  Because, seriously, the Republicans will cut you:

Republican lawmakers, including the few who voted for a $12.5 billion tax package in February, say there’s no way they can support more tax increases.

“Additional taxes on top of what we’ve done cannot be part of the solution because the economy can’t stand it,” said Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks (Sacramento County), Assembly budget vice chairman.

*   *   *

“If the voters reject (the measures), what the voters are really saying is ‘We want you to go back to partisan warfare. We want you to go back to arguing and not getting something done,’ ” said Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines of Clovis (Fresno County). “The message to the Legislature would be to go back to your corners.” (SF Chronicle 4/6/09)

There are a few logical problems with this analysis.  The first being that the electorate for a poorly noticed special election will always carry a partisan bias.  The turnout will be abysmal; perhaps we’ll get 20% of registered voters to vote.  If the voters tell the legislature to go to hell, nobody should be shocked. These voters are the most active and the most partisan.  On the right they can’t stand taxes, and on the left, well, they have a heart and cannot stomach the thought of additional cuts.

This is the theme that we will be seeing to pass Prop 1A. If the voters don’t pass this, the budget will explode. In effect, the task that the legislature couldn’t accomplish, saving the budget from collapse, is now somehow the voters’ responsibility. I don’t discount the pain that failure of the special election, it will clearly be painful. But why must the voters do the heavy lifting that the legislature has failed to do?

A deeper question is how long the voters will fight the Republican battles. How long will it be before the Democratic ideas of a larger social safety net are pervasive.  I bring this up because of a piece from a Money Mag. editor on where we go from here.

Social safety nets didn’t seem so important when even families with modest incomes could get 10% to 20% annual gains on their houses. … Some optimistic pundits even saw this borrowing spree as a workable solution to the new stresses that were showing up in the economic statistics, such as rising inequality and increasingly unstable middle-class incomes. If you lost your job or didn’t get a raise, you could borrow to smooth things over until better times.

It seems unlikely we’ll revert to that behavior anytime soon. So one prediction I’ll make about the next normal is that voters will look to government to help them manage risk. (CNN/Money 4/6/09)

As we move forward into the 2010 elections and beyond, are voters really going to be so fearful of the boogeyman “big government.”  Time after time, the only institution that can pick up the pieces of another financial disaster is the government.  Are voters really going to want to slash and burn through the only institution that can be relied upon?

So, whether or not the Republicans retreat to their ideological corner or not, their Norquistian position has an expiration date stamped on the underside.  The GOP ideas are beginning to curdle and emit a nasty odor.  Whether it happens immediately or at some later election, the GOP ideological extremism will be overcome.