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Was Prop 29 the End of the Duped California Voter?

Wayne Lusvardi
Political Commentator

Is the era of California’s duped voters over?  That is the question that has to be asked now that Proposition 29 – the proposed additional tobacco tax of $1 per pack of cigarettes – has narrowly been defeated at the ballot box.  Perhaps this portends the end of stem cell funding and the Institute for Regenerative Medicine as well as California’s High Speed Rail Project.

Prop 29 was defeated by a margin of 28,883 votes – or 0.5 percent – out of 5.45 million ballots cast.  The relative percentages were 50.3 percent opposed and 49.7 percent approved the tax.  Prop 29 would have raised $855 million in the first year for mostly redundant cancer research.

The Rise of the Duped Voter, Opportunistic Legislators, or Both?

Voter initiatives authored by both the state legislature and by public entrepreneurs were subject only to a simple majority vote during the decade of the 2000’s.  Taxpayers approved about $31.65 billion in voter-approved bond issues during that same period of time.  Paradoxically, the state budget was concurrently running structural deficits each year. The voters never seemed to connect the dots between budget deficits and reflexively voting for bond issues.

How much more dumb or duped could the voters have been? Gov. Brown now says he doesn’t have enough money to fund health and welfare items in his 2012-13 budget and needs about a $10 billion tax hike.

Waterless Water Bond Initiatives

From 2000 to 2006 California voters approved four water and parks bond ballot initiatives totaling $18.7 billion that were initiated by the state legislature.  A fifth water bond – Prop 84 – originated with a voter-signature process rather than with the legislature. The Nature Conservancy and a host of other environmental nonprofit agencies financially supported Prop 84 as a jobs program.

However, not a drop of water was added to any California reservoir from these five water bonds.  California ended up in 2012 with only six months of total water storage available during a wet year in both the state and federal water systems combined.

California squandered enough money on so-called water and parks bonds that it could have built four or more reservoirs or a major water reservoir and the Peripheral Canal around the Sacramento Delta for that amount.  But from 2000 to 2008 voters kept voting for water bonds like endangered suckerfish in the Delta.

Entrepreneurial Backed Bond Initiatives

From 1984 to 2008, public entrepreneurs initiated three major bond propositions for voter approval for the state lottery (Prop 37 -$1 billion a year for schools), stem cell research (Prop 71 – $3 billion over 10 years), and the high-speed rail project (Prop 1A – $9.95 billion), totaling $13.95 billion.

Prop 71 reflected an insignificant 0.4 percent of all private biomedical research funding in California in 2008. This research has produced no cures to date. This has resulted in nothing but another unaccountable slush fund for researchers mainly within the U.C. system.

The High Speed Rail Project originated in the legislature and is a jobs program supported by a wide range of special interests in the Democratic Party, including environmental advocates.

So are duped voters, out-of-control legislators or both the problem with the state budget?  And is it a tyranny of the majority or minority that is obstructing a solution to the state budget?

In California circa 2000 to 2012, the record indicates neither the voters nor the legislature were more prudent, more stable, or better judges than the other.  This runs contrary to those technocrats that propose getting rid of the supermajority vote requirement of Prop 13 and letting the legislature have unlimited control of tax decisions.

Tyranny of the Minority: But Which Minority?

Many contend that California is being held hostage to a tyranny of the minority of anti-tax voters by the requirement for a supermajority – 66 percent – vote for taxes. But it is a tinier minority of pro-tax voters in California that are the margin of approval for bond issues for mostly useless projects and programs.

Looking at the table below, the winning margin of voters for both legislative and entrepreneurial initiated bond issues was a scant 2.8 to 8.8 percent of all eligible voters. And it was only 8.7 to 29.3 percent of all registered voters.

The reason that statewide voter-approved bond spending has been out of control is a cabal of voters — reflecting fewer than the 33 percent margin required by Prop 13 to block tax hikes — are nearly automatically approving the bonds at the ballot box.  But then why the defeat of Prop 29?

Margin of Winning Votes for Bonds – 1984 to 2008

Number Percent
Total population 2010 37,253,956 100%
Total eligible voters 23,713,027 100% of potential voters
Total registered voters 7,153,699 30% of eligible voters
Voters June 5, 2012 3,850,000 16.2% of eligible voters
Range of margin of voters approving bond issues from 2000-2008 625,000 to 2,100,000 2.6% to 8.8% of eligible voters;
8.7% to 29.3% of registered voters;Average Margin: 14.2%

To many liberals it is “undemocratic” that a 33 percent minority can block taxes in California. But to them it is apparently not “undemocratic” that from on average roughly 14 percent of registered voters can approve “bonds for a bullet train to nowhere,” water bonds with no water produced, and medical research with no cures.  What is to guarantee any really needed future public works projects won’t be ripped off by a “tyranny of the pro-tax minority?”

Has the era of the duped California bond voter come to an end as signified by the narrow defeat of Prop 29?

There is no end to the duped voter in California because there are no duped voters. There is only a “tyranny of a minority” of pro-tax voters who can vote for bond financing for public programs and projects for their own self- interest or the interest of the Government Class.  The only reason Prop 29 barely lost at the polls is that the faction of pro-tax voters has maxed-out their credit cards.

Credit card payments are now eating into the budget for the kids food, health and dental care. And we have nothing to show for the binge spending for useless jobs programs made possible by low-interest credit cards called bonds. And then we wonder why there is no money left to fix the plumbing leaks (build new dams), to repave the cracked driveway (pave roads), or replace the fuse box with circuit breakers (nuke plants and blackouts).  And we can pretend that all this can be “fixed” if we let only one person in the household use only one credit card and tear the rest up.  But that one person has crack cocaine and gambling addictions and is the same person who ran up credit card debt at the bond casinos.  But one-party rule is now what is euphemistically being called “political reform.”  No wonder your California’s family is said to be “cracking up.”

The saying of Charles Peguy “tyranny of the minority is always better organized than freedom” would seem to apply to California spending on bonds in the last decade.

State Wide Legislative and Entrepreneurial Initiated Bonds Requiring Voter Approval – 1984 to 2012.

Prop. No. Date Title Funding with Interest Number & Percent Approve Number & Percent Oppose Margin of Victory
Water Bond Initiatives Initiated by State Legislature & Public Entrepreneurs
12 Mar. 7, 2000 Safe Parks, Clean Water & Air Act
(AB 18, 2000)
$3.8 billion 4,657,600
63.2%
2,722,03036.8% 1,935,570
26.4%
13 Mar. 7, 2000 Safe Drinking, Clean Water & Watershed Act
(AB1584,2000)
$3.4 billion 4,745,87264.8% 2,585,29835.2% 2,160,574
29.6%
40 Mar. 5, 2002 Calif. Clean Water, Air & Parks Act
(AB1602,2001)
$4.3 billion 2,769,17056.9% 2,101,516
43.1%
667,654
13.8%
50 Nov. 5, 2002 Water Quality, Supply & Drinking Act
(SB 71, 2005)
$5.7 billion 3,882,11855.3% 3,139,47844.7% 742,640
10.6%
84 Nov. 7, 2006 Bonds for Clean Water, Flood Control
(special interest group initiated)
$10.5 billion 4,431,94553.8% 3,807,00546.2% 624,940
7.6%
Bond Issues Initiated by Public Entrepreneurs
37 Nov. 1984 State Lottery Act
(special interest group initiated)
$1 billion to ed. 5,938,07657.9% 3,924,346
42.1%
2,013,730
15.8%
71 Nov. 2, 2004 Stem Cell Research & Cures Act (special interest group initiated) $3 billion over 10 years 7,018,059
59.0%
4,867,090
41%
2,150,969
18%
1A Nov. 4, 2008 Safe, High Speed Train Bond ActLegislature initiated

AB3034(Aug.2008)

$9.95 billion 6,680,485
52.7%
6,015,944
47.3%
664,541
5.4%
29 Jun.5
2012
Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research
(legislature initiated)
$855million 2,508,139
49.7%
2,537,022
50.3%
28,883
0.6%
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