By signing SB 202, Governor Jerry Brown likely has opened the door for a strong spending limit to appear on the November 2012 ballot. SB 202 was a vehicle promoted by public employee unions to push initiatives to the November ballot and to postpone (and probably later attempt to kill) a rainy day fund/spending limit measure scheduled for a vote of the people in 2012. The consequence: a tougher spending limit than the rainy day fund could likely appear on the November 2012 ballot by way of initiative.

According to polls, spending limits are very popular with voters. The public employee unions and their Democratic allies who trumpeted the move of initiatives off of the June primary ballot to November under the pretense that they want more voters to judge initiative measures, don’t want any voters to consider the rainy day fund measure. Hypocrisy drips from this bill, SB 202.

The rainy day fund measure that was postponed was considered a smoother of revenues – when revenue flowed in some would be put aside and used in lean years — so that the state would have a reserve to deal with budget deficits.

A spending limit like the one California had for a decade in the 1980s before it was weakened by amendments was a much stricter cap. Since a vote on the rainy day fund/spending limitation was postponed, many supporters of a spending limitation are concerned that it will never reappear. The idea of creating a strict spending limit and qualifying it for the November 2012 ballot has been given impetus by the governor’s signature on SB 202.

Perhaps, Governor Brown will welcome a tougher spending limit. As I wrote in this space earlier this year, Brown praised spending limits in his second inaugural address.

Some excerpts:

Government, no less than the individual, must live within limits. It is time to bring our accounts into balance. Government, as exemplar and teacher, must manifest a self-discipline that spreads across the other institutions in our society, so that we can begin to work for the future, not just consume the present.


Finally, in order to ensure that we permanently slow the inflationary growth of government, I will support an appropriate constitutional amendment to limit state and local spending. Such measures are difficult to draft but are justified today in order to recapture a sense of the common interest as opposed to the narrow and special interests that combine to push spending beyond what is reasonable.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing Brown’s words again if a new spending limit is on the November 2012 ballot.