I’m still not sure about what I’m going to do on Prop 30, if I vote on it at all. On one hand, it’s terrible policy (temporary taxes, constitutional changes in spending and revenue flows) from a governor who has simply refused to grapple with the broken governing system. On the other, boy it would be nice to have more money for important public services, even if only temporarily.
But whatever the outcome, and however you come down on the initiative, let’s all hope that Proposition 30 is the last measure of its kind.
For the past decade, California has sought to tackle its budget crisis with a series of temporary measures. The sponsors and particulars of the measure have changed each time, but the heart of the idea is always the same. Let’s paper over the systemic problem with short-term revenues of some sort, and then wait for the economy to come back and save us.
We’ve seen this again and again. Prop 57, in 2004, used $15 billion in general obligation bonds to “refinance” the debt, prevent bigger immediate cuts, and provide a bridge to the time when revenues come back. Then in 2009, the February budget deal offered two years of temporary taxes, linked to some reforms. In May 2009, as part of that deal, voters considered Prop 1A, which tied two additional years of temporary taxes to yet another rainy day fund.
Prop 57 won and the budget deal taxes got through (though Prop 1A lost). In each case, though, the pain was merely prolonged. Temporary revenues went away, and the big broken budget remained. Prop 30 is in this tradition. It may postpone pain, but it won’t solve anything.
In the newspaper business, the end of the story used to be marked as – 30 –
Let’s hope that Prop 30 represents the end of a story. The end of half measures and of the postponement of the inevitable. Proposition -30-