Posts Tagged 'ballot propositions'

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Carin sent me an e-mail this morning asking that I write my state legislators and tell them that we should keep the parks open.  The Governator has proposed shutting most of them down to keep California finances from falling into the Pacific.

Now I like trees as much as the next guy.  But I have so many requests to contact my legislators that I don’t know where to start.  Food for the home-bound, health care for the indigent, school class sizes smaller than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, help for single mothers with a dozen or more kids housed at Motel Six, prison guards who won’t be able to spend their normal two weeks on the French Riviera, and my own local library that may have to burn its books.  What’s a guy to do?

Budget cuts are rampant.  The Democrats, held hostage by minority Republicans who are the beneficiaries of the super-majority requirement bestowed on them by us, are catatonic and incapable of doing anything but closing down the state.

As the NY Times reported

The Democratic-controlled Legislature has been uncharacteristically silent on most of the cuts, most likely because lawmakers know that tax increases are not politically palatable, that huge cuts in some form are in the offing no matter what, and that any program they wish to spare will quite likely have advocates among their ranks.

Letters to the editor abound.  “About time someone took an axe to the state budget.  The voters have spoken.  No tax increase.  Cut out the waste.  A pox on their houses.”  Many cite the evidence of the overwhelming defeat of the recent unintelligible ballot propositions as clear evidence that tax increases are unacceptable.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Less than a third of California registered voters participated in the election.  Last week American Idol polled about 100 million votes.  I’m proud to say that I voted in the election.  I’m also proud to say I’ve never seen American Idol.

I voted against all of the propositions, even the one that passed.  The one that punishes the legislature if we run a deficit.  I’m not sure why the legislature should be punished.  We’re the ones who’ve hamstrung them.  Maybe we should get a pay cut too.

I thought a long time about the propositions.  Maybe ten minutes which, at my age, is a significant commitment.  I realized that passage would be a band-aid on the real problem only to be followed by more ballot propositions.  And we would continue our role as the state’s budget experts and chief financial planners.  A dubious honor, the silliness of which is supported by any discussion overheard at Ojai Coffee Roasting.

No, I voted against the propositions in the hope that the Rapture would begin.  A wholesale slaughter.  The coming of the Messiah.  A cataclysmic event that would move the electorate.  An event so overwhelming and distasteful that we would admit to our wickedness.  And beg for change.  Beg that we change the way this state is run.  Beg that the legislature take over from us, the incompetent.  Beg that, unless we are trampling on individual rights, that a majority of our legislature enact the law.

So, please don’t ask me to tell my elected representatives to keep the parks open.  Don’t ask me to make donations to keep the schools open.  Don’t ask me to take over the legitimate responsibilities of our elected representatives.  Do ask me to vote for a change to the way this state is run.  Do ask me to support legitimate public services by paying my fair share.

Meanwhile, brother, I can’t spare a dime.


Throw the bums out

Sweetie and I were cruising down the Dennison Grade yesterday.   Beautiful day, crystal clear even with that awful fire in Santa Barbara.  About halfway down the grade we stopped at the temporary stoplight that heralds the road work on the cliff-side.  Two guys with shovels were poking at the newly graded area.  “At this rate they may finish before the next ice age ” I said to Sweetie.

The radio came to life with the 10 o’clock news.  “State budget deficit to increase dramatically even if all six ballot propositions pass voter scrutiny on May 19.  Bills won’t be paid.  People in need will go without.”

“Those guys in Sacramento should be ashamed of themselves.  What do we need them for?” my lovely wife said in her own unique style.  “They should be doing their job.  It’s their fault we’re in this mess.  They shouldn’t get paid for doing nothing.”

I’ve been reading about 1A, 1B, 1C…that alphabet soup of unintelligible propositions that were once declared as the solution to our budget crisis.   Alas, the guiding light that provides the secret of life is all but missing as I wade through the available information.  Or maybe I’m just too lazy to cope with anything longer than one paragraph.

The Ventura Star tried to let us in on the secret last week.  But it took a page and a half to scratch the surface of just one of propositions.  The letters to the editor of the Star offer little in the way of sensible guidance.  More often than not they are the products of ignorance and political bias.  Frequently they seem to be produced by people who live in another galaxy.  Often more entertaining than the comics page…more often a sad reflection of what passes as intelligence.

Paid advertisements are no comfort…surprise!  While slicker and more emotional than the rantings of the letters to the editor, they are generally the products of people with ulterior and self-satisfying motives.

Current polls reflect Sweetie’s frustration.  They show that five of the six propositions are doomed.  Only F is getting a warm reception…banning pay hikes for legislators in deficit years…yippee.  As the LA Times reported yesterday…

If the propositions do not pass, the state could find itself as much as $23 billion short of the money it needs to pay its bills over the next year, according to a new forecast by Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor. The poll, from the Public Policy Institute of California, found that even as voter interest in the ballot measures rises, all are trailing except the sixth one — Proposition 1F

The article also lists what will happen if the bills fail and revenue continues to fall.  Including commuting the sentences of 38,000 prison inmates and closing fire stations.  Howard Jarvis look-alikes say it’s just scare tactics.

And who’s to blame for this mess.  Start with the 1978 ballot proposition we, the voters, embraced.  Among other things, it gave a 1/3 minority in the legislature the ability to block tax increases.  The tip of the iceberg.

With nothing better to do I looked at the various ballot propositions  that we, in our infinite wisdom, passed during the last ten years.  Twenty-two authorized the issuance of bonds and directed how the loaned money was to be spent.  And for good measure, nine more simply restricted the ability of the legislature to collect or spend money.  That’s just the last ten years.  I peeked at the 1990’s and voter management of the state’s business is even more awe inspiring.  When you consider that we just passed Proposition 8 limiting the definition of marriage, you get some idea of our continuing wisdom.

Just in case you think the legislature will absorb its losses after May 19, regroup and negotiate a new deal, think again.  We, in a fit of pique, termed out most of the experienced representatives by voting for term limits.  The current crop of negotiators is operating with learners’ permits.  Heaven help us.

Oh, and for that vanishing breed of conservative Republicans who just want to slash and pillage, our per capita State government spending  in 2007 ranked us 26th in the country.  Just behind Iowa and slightly ahead of Montana.  Alaska, home of the Snow Queen, spent at three times our rate.

So who’s to blame for this mess anyway?  Got a mirror?



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