As we enter the final weeks before the May 19 special election, the often blurry picture of the six initiatives and the broader politics surrounding them is coming into focus. Yesterday’s rejection of Propositions 1A, 1D and 1E by the California Democratic Party convention should not be surprising for two reasons:
- Despite the rhetoric, none of these propositions will have a meaningful impact on the immediate budget mess. Prop 1A of course has no effect at all on revenues until 2011. Props 1D and 1E are drops in the bucket, especially considering that at minimum there is an $8 billion budget hole no matter what happens on May 19
- Those three propositions were the most objectionable and obviously ridiculous proposals of the six. A spending cap is a huge price to pay, and Prop 1A doesn’t really offer much in return. As several folks eloquently explained on the convention floor, including Paul Hogarth, Props 1D and 1E are an indefensible attack on the most vulnerable and needy Californians. Democrats showed that they still had souls by rejecting those two measures.
With the likely rejection by voters of Prop 1A, Prop 1B is rendered moot even if it is approved (CTA looks like it will lose its multi-billion dollar gamble) and the irrelevancy of Abel Maldonado’s Prop 1F, that leaves Proposition 1C as the only thing about the May 19 election that has any suspense left to it. The February budget deal assumed $5 billion would be brought in from Prop 1C – which is optimistic at best but does mean that of all six propositions, only Prop 1C really matters over the near term.
Along with the rest of the Calitics Editorial Board I oppose Prop 1C – it’s a payday loan that is likely to leave the state on the hook for at least $2 billion out of the general fund when it becomes clear that people aren’t about to reverse the trend of buying fewer lottery tickets.
But if I can offer some free advice to the Democratic legislative leadership, they need to stop digging their hole any deeper, stop pushing for Prop 1A and start focusing solely on Prop 1C.
It’s possible that the legislative leadership could convince Californians that throwing shrinking lottery revenues to a bond market that hasn’t shown much interest in the proposal is something we have to do to prevent even worse cuts than those that are already likely to come down in June.
It would certainly help their cause if they stopped speaking as if those cuts were inevitable. Democratic legislators have tired to scare Democratic voters into backing the propositions and it hasn’t worked for Prop 1A in particular – all that fear does is reinforce the base’s anger at what appears to be capitulation to Republicans.
By now it has to be clear that the Democratic legislative leadership has badly miscalculated on these proposals. Aside from the flawed nature of the proposals and how they came onto the ballot, selling them as a single package was a disastrous move. If they want to salvage anything from this sinking ship, they could tell Californians why we should take a chance on borrowing against the lottery via Prop 1C, and how it will help our Democratic leaders more strongly resist Republican demands for massive cuts, instead of assume those cuts are a foregone conclusions. They could embrace demands for a majority vote budget, instead of dismissing it out of hand.
I still wouldn’t vote for Prop 1C. But if they want other Democrats, progressives, and the people of California to vote for it, following something like the above plan would assure those voters that the legislative leadership is willing to be realistic, and that they actually do have some sort of May 20 strategy that they can plug Prop 1C into. In the absence of such a strategy, Prop 1C is going down, and the leadership has nobody to blame but themselves.