Californians are frustrated with Sacramento and the way the state government operates, and rightly so. Proposition 31 packages both good and bad measures in seeking to make significant changes. However, in balance, the potential impact of the negative measures prevails over the positive ones.
The ballot initiative shows the good intentions of Forward California, an organization dedicated to good governance practices. Prop 31 has proposals we consider positive, like the creation of a more stable two-year budget cycle. It also promotes transparency by requiring bills to be provided to legislators at least three days before they vote on them. So far, everything is good.
The problem is that Prop 31 also has unfavorable aspects, like expanding the governor’s power so he can make unilateral budget cuts. This idea is very similar to the one voters rejected in 2005’s Proposition 76.
At the same time, this initiative authorizes the transfer of state funds, estimated at more than $200 million per year, to local services projects. Where the money will come from and the impact it will have on beneficiaries and service providers is still unclear.
Finally, the initiative also establishes that any law that proposes expenditures above $25 million must identify a funding source without raising taxes. Meaning, even without a budget crisis, funds will probably have to be cut from one program to pay for another. This restriction would be written in stone.
But the initiative’s biggest obstacle is that it alters the balance in Sacramento, taking power away from the Legislature and giving it to local projects and the governor. The popularity of the California Legislature is extremely low. However, that does not mean it is any better to have a more powerful governor or that local authorities working on projects should be exempt from complying with state laws.
We think some aspects of the initiative should be eliminated in order to improve it. Meanwhile, vote No on Proposition 31.