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.
What I love about Prop 34 is that it’s so clean. A simple question. Do you want to repeal the death penalty? Then vote yes. Or do you want to keep it?
Too many ballot initiatives gum up a simple, moral, policy choice like that by throwing in something unrelated, like a new unaccountable program or new spending that would hurt the budget.
Not Prop 34. It’s a simple up-and-down, except for the minor matter of the new $100 million anti-crime program it starts.
Now you could be cynical about that program. Some jerks out there will try to change the subject from the death penalty by arguing that the $100 million or so in projected savings from ending the death penalty and shutting down death row could be savings for the general fund. But instead, they go into a new program.
And who would administer that new program? The state’s attorney general. She’s trustworthy, so it doesn’t really matter that there’s no oversight of the funds. And I’m sure that the initiative sponsors didn’t give the attorney general control just because the a.g. writes the ballot title and summaries that often determine whether an initiative wins or not. And I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that Prop 34 received an unbelievably favorable title and summary, which didn’t mention anything at all about the attorney general’s new anti-crime fund.
And only a budget crazy would care about taking $100 million out of the budget for that. It’s not like the state needs every penny, or anything. $100 million is less than the $250 million whack that higher education seems to take every few months. And we don’t need the money to save the state parks system, since those guys were keeping their own little reserve fund.
Anyway, I hate to even mention the matter of the fund, because you wouldn’t want to muck up a simple ballot initiative like this with bad budget policy—and balanced box budgeting. Prop 34 is simple really. There’s nothing to think about except your view on the death penalty.