Rotten deal didn’t give voters choice
(Note: The following analysis of the May 19 special election was adapted
from recommendations provided by the Green Party of Alameda County.)
The Green Party of California urged voters to vote NO on all items on the
ballot in the May 19 special election.
Of course, we opposed the cuts in transportation, education, social services,
and other human services, that were part of this budget deal.
We opposed this deal even though the politicians told us that great hardship
would result if their rotten deal failed to pass.
And it may even be true.
But, even more, we opposed the process which concluded by offering us the "choice" of
being shot in the leg or shot in the arm, but did NOT offer us the choice of
using our collective wealth to meet human needs.
PROPOSITION 1A was a constitutional amendment. Most of 1A was part of the
original budget agreement. The Proposition included additional parts that went
far beyond the existing agreement.
Ironically, per the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO), the provisions of
1A would not affect the current budget. Rather, bringing this measure before
the voters was the price agreed to by the Democrats to get the Republican votes
needed for the budget deal.
Under 1A, "unanticipated revenues" -- revenues in excess of the
ten-year average - would be saved in a Budget Stabilization Fund, or "rainy
day fund," for future years in which they could be spent for the Proposition
98 K-14 educational spending mandate (under Proposition 1B, below) or, if 1B
to pay off various loans and bonds.
This Proposition was unclear and not transparent. It could not do what it
claimed to do; instead, it would create new problems.
1A asked us to accept a permanent spending cap (a zero-growth budget) as the
price the Legislature insisted on to raise some taxes temporarily. If such
a spending cap had been in effect this year, it would have mandated billions
of dollars in additional cuts.
State spending on education, health care, the safety net for low-income people,
and other essential services is inadequate now, and has been for many years.
Freezing the state budget (except for population growth and inflation) means
that the inadequate spending levels could never be raised.
In addition, population growth alone does not reflect the different needs
that different people have. One obvious example is that children whose families
recently immigrated to the US and who do not speak English at home require
more spending on school services, at least for a few years.
Another example is that, as California's population ages, more per capita
spending for health care and social services will be required.
How would the 1A spending cap affect any new programs Californians may want
to create? We'll use the example of "Health Care for All Forever."
It is possible to pass a Single-Payer ("Medicare for All") health
care plan in California, such as SB 840, which passed the Legislature but was
vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger twice, and is now being introduced again
as SB 810. The new revenues such a plan would mandate would not be subject
to the spending cap.
However, studies which have shown that Californians could afford to cover
everyone with the money that would be saved by cutting the health insurance
companies out of the loop depend on also rolling existing programs into the
new program. The deep cuts that have been made in state health care spending
make this much more difficult.
Although the budget battle was mainly portrayed by the mainstream media as
Democrats (tax, cut, and borrow) vs. Republicans (cut, cut, and cut), there
were some parts of the deal that even some Democrats could not bring themselves
to support. District 16 Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, for example, voted against
1A (and several other budget cuts), and was stripped of a committee chairmanship
by the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, Karen Bass.
PROPOSITION 1B actually looked good at first glance.
It claimed to restore, starting in the 2011-12 school year, $9.3 billion dollars
that were diverted from K-14 education spending guaranteed under Proposition
98. There is no question that deep cuts in education funding are being made
all around us.
Thousands of teachers and other school employees are threatened with layoffs.
However, 1B was contingent on passage of 1A. That is, 1B was the sweetener
for the worst part of this rotten deal.
While the California Teachers Association recommended support of 1B, many
teachers, including the Oakland Education Association (by a unanimous vote
of their Rep Council) opposed both Propositions 1A and 1B.
PROPOSITION 1C allows the state to borrow $5 billion against future
lottery revenues, and use the funds for programs other than the schools. We
opposed this Proposition because we are opposed to the entire process and this
PROPOSITIONS 1D and 1E altered past Propositions to plug some holes
in the current budget, and that is why they appeared on our ballot. We oppose
these measures as part of opposing this entire deal. 1D redirects money from
the Prop 10 (California Children and Families Act) Trust Fund; 1E redirects
money from Prop 63 (the Mental Health Services Act).
PROPOSITION 1F was deceptive. The Legislature tried to look like they
were sharing the sacrifices that the rest of us are being asked to make in
these tough times.
But 1F merely bars increases "during budget deficit years" so the
Legislature would continue to receive their normal salaries and per diems.
People losing their jobs or their benefits get nothing. Some equality of sacrifice!
Voters must not accept the really terrible budget cuts that were made to pass
the budget, or the various bad policies in these Propositions.
We sent a strong message by defeating Propositions 1A through 1F. Greens were