Readers of this column know that I vehemently oppose California's initiative process in its present form. Hiding behind the shibboleth "Let the people decide," the initiative process has successfully locked in spending, greatly contributed to the institutionalization of annual deficits, while passing laws with little regard for the unintended consequences.
In November, the California electorate will be treated to a lesson on the dysfunction of the initiative process as they make a critical decision about the state's future.
Both Propositions 30 and 38 will raise taxes for education.
Proposition 30 is backed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Teachers Association. Proposition 38 is supported by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the California State Parent Teachers Association.
Support for Proposition 30 enshrines in the state constitution the creation of a new fund that can only be spent on K-12 schools and community colleges. It also guarantees local governments will have the funding each year for transferring inmates from state prisons to local jails. The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates the tax increases would bring in $6 billion annually for seven years.
It raises the income tax rate on individuals who earn more than $250,000 a year and couples who earn more than $500,000 a year. The income tax rate will increase on a sliding scale ranging from 1 percent to 3 percent.
The measure also raises the
Proposition 38 would also increase state income tax rates for most Californians from 2013 to 2024. During that time it is estimated to generate roughly $10 billion annually to fund K-12 schools and early childhood programs.
If both pass, the proposition with the highest vote total would become law. However, because this year's state budget has a "trigger" if Proposition 30 fails, K-12 schools and community colleges would lose $5.35 billion.
Moreover, the University of California and California State University systems would each lose $250 million. City police departments, CalFire, the park system, flood control programs and others would also lose several million dollars each. Proposition 38 is not bound by the trigger.
But Proposition 38 guarantees the funds collected go directly to schools. It restores all the budget cuts so schools can rehire teachers.
If ever there were a decision that required a duly elected body it would be the one placed before the voters to decide the fates of Propositions 30 and 38.
But the systematic neutering of the Legislature (some of it self-inflicted) through the initiative process has placed the responsibility for difficult decisions in the hands of monied interest and an electorate void of institutional memory.
No one likes the idea of increased taxes. But can we afford to continue on the current course?
I like that Proposition 38 goes directly to schools, but I don't like its inability to offset the triggers in this year's budget. Nor do I like the length of the tax it imposes.
Both propositions are reflective of the distrust held by the electorate for state government. For decades the belief that we the people could do as well, if not better, than those we elect have led us down the primrose path to dysfunction.
We must now decide between two competing propositions that will raise taxes, lock in spending, without consideration for the unintended consequences, or possesses the requisite institutional memory.
The other option would be to defeat both propositions. Doing nothing may seem like the logical choice for a distrustful electorate. But given where the state finds itself, does it really have a choice other than to swallow one of these bitter pills?
Contact Byron Williams at 510-208-6417 or email@example.com.