Making Sense of Prop 31
October 15, 2012 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me understand California prop 31 on state budget reform

I feel way out of my depth voting on prop 31.

What do you think would be the long term effects/unintended consequences of the various clauses?

Establishes two-year state budget cycle.
Prohibits Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified.
Permits Governor to cut budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if Legislature fails to act.
Requires performance reviews of all state programs.
Requires performance goals in state and local budgets.
Requires publication of bills at least three days prior to legislative vote.
Allows local governments to alter how laws governing state-funded programs apply to them, unless Legislature or state agency vetoes change within 60 days.

The last one is definitely the most confusing. Everything else seems sensible on the surface, but I admit no deep knowledge of how this will actually affect the state.

What is the practical effect of a two-year budget cycle? Better budget predictability and more likely to be balanced, at the cost of having a longer planning window?

What are the consequences of requiring expenditures to be offset by other spending cuts or revenues?

Is there anything wrong with requiring performance reviews? I would have assumed that we did this already for all major government projects.

Does this give the governor too much power?

Is this a political power grab in some way that I don't understand? The background on Nicolas Berggruen that I've done so far suggests that he's backing this proposition to honestly help the state achieve reform.

A lot of these items seem like good common sense to me (except the last one, which I really really don't understand).

According to the opposition, it prevents the state from cutting taxes if the state has a surplus, from using surplus money on new programs over $25M, and the last term threatens public health/water quality. Is any of this true? Is this a spending cap in practice?
posted by ilikemefi to Law & Government (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
At a gloss over those points, this sounds like a tea party bill. The governor can cut expenditures, but not raise taxes. The state cannot borrow. Etc.

SFgate's analysis is "the impact is hard to predict," which suggests to me that the sponsors and some political element intend to use this as a power grab in some surprising and heinous way.


The proposition is being pushed by the California Forward Action Fund, the political arm of the California Forward government reform group. Opponents include environmental and health care-access organizations and the League of Women Voters.
posted by zippy at 6:30 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's the sfgate analysis.
posted by zippy at 6:37 PM on October 15, 2012

The California Constitution allows for funding of any ballot measure if voted in regardless of budget. When Californians sign petitions for ballot measures and those measures pass, they have to be enacted and paid for.

Prop 31 is a roundabout way to give essential powers to the Governor to "veto" such things. Personally, I don't agree with the wording, but I do believe the Gov should at least have the opportunity/authority to question and or veto initiatives.

The wording is total legalese in an attempt to circumvent corporate and whoever else backs initiatives, which have been a huge boon for contractors for decades.

I'm voting Yes on 31 and 30 too. California Public Education is right on the precipice of complete failure if we don't provide support.

(Full disclosure...I've been working for quite a while to amend the California Constitution and I'm a supporter of California Public Education.)
posted by snsranch at 8:19 PM on October 15, 2012

Just in general, but as a fellow Californian: be suspicious of any plan to solve budget crises by slashing services rather than raising taxes.
posted by jsturgill at 8:24 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

To me the local governments being able to take state money and ignore state laws is batshitfuckinginsane.

There was a decent Forum episode about this prop (and others).
posted by fleacircus at 8:38 PM on October 15, 2012

It's absolutely toxic.

By all measures it will make any large project that would employ large amounts of people politically impossible ruling out any sort of state-based stimulus (not that California would in the first place since the political climate is completely out of whack).

It also allows local government to kill off necessary state-funded programs in their area which is batshit insane.

Prop 31 is a roundabout way to give essential powers to the Governor to "veto" such things. Personally, I don't agree with the wording, but I do believe the Gov should at least have the opportunity/authority to question and or veto initiatives.

And Prop 13 was a way to keep seniors in their homes against ever escalating property tax. Be very careful about voting in these sorts of things with strings attached.
posted by Talez at 9:49 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Governor budget slashing power doesn't even have anything to do specifically with initiatives, does it? Any time an emergency is contrived, and congress gets locked up the Governor can slash any old thing he/she wants for any reason. Initiatives shminitiatives.
posted by fleacircus at 10:20 PM on October 15, 2012

I also thought is was worded in a crafty way to make heinous power grabs and funnel tax dollars to private corporations.

I am voting NO.
posted by jbenben at 11:02 PM on October 15, 2012

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