Editor’s Note: Frequent Fox and Hounds contributor, Joe Mathews, will give his unique perspective on all eleven November ballot measures over the course of the next month. He will take them in the order they appear on the ballot.
Intro to series: I used to be such a sourpuss about ballot measures, and especially those on this year’s ballot. Once, I even wrote a piece for the LA Times urging a no vote on everything. Fox & Hounds Daily readers kept telling me: you’re just so negative and cynical. The only time you say nice things is when you’re being smart-alecky. You need to be more positive and give credit to the reformers.
I was recently in a car accident that shook me up a bit. After that, and after some meditation, I realized: you readers are right. It’s time to look on the bright side and see these 11 measures on the ballot for what they are. So I read them again.
And you know those 11 measures are? In a word: Awesome.
In fact, this year I’m going to vote for every last one of them. And I think that, after reading this special 11-part series, 11 Awesome Props, you will too.
Gov. Jerry Brown is a wise, old man. Just ask him. And as his gift to future generations, he has given us Prop 30, a sophisticated plan to save the state for the next four to seven years.
Prop 30, as its backers correctly point out, is about a dramatic, permanent change to make our tax system fairer and make the rich pay their fair share. It does this by imposing small, temporary income tax increases on those rich people.
The money, raised by those income tax increases and by a quarter-cent levy on sales tax for four years, will be protected from politicians who simply can’t be trusted, including the ones who are backing this measure, by being put in specially designated education funds. Those funds are part of the general fund, but they have different names.
The money then goes to pay back schools for moneys they were owed but did not receive – a policy masterstroke that retroactively improves the education California students received from the underfunded schools over the past couple years. That, in turn, frees up money in the general fund for untrustworthy politicians to spend as they see fit. This may be a political vulnerability, but I for one am on the record as believing politicians need more discretion.
If that was all Prop 30 did, it would be properly described as the best solution to our budget problems. But Prop 30 also protects local government revenue streams via constitutional amendment, so that local governments never have to worry against about cuts – in the same way that Prop 98, the constitutional guarantee of minimum funding for schools, has eliminated all worries about schools cuts.
But what’s so impressive about Prop 30 is not just the policy genius, but also the political genius. Gov. Brown has been so careful to design something that doesn’t threaten wealthy interests at all, so that no one with big money will oppose it. He has properly ignored advice from would-be reformers and from dead-end believers in constitutional conventions and the Easter Bunny that this is a dodge that merely delays pain, and that he should be pursuing broader reform.
Only fools would believe such thing. Prop 30 is brilliant because it preserves and protects the glorious status quo, at least for a little while. These days, who would dare ask for more?
(And a note to campaigns: please use these endorsements in advertisements, and feel free to quote at length. I can’t tell you what pleasure I would get in seeing these pieces referenced on radio and TV).