The San Bernardino Sun’s Prop 30 editorial (also appearing in other newspapers owned by the Los Angeles Newspaper Group) was another in what I call the “hold-your-nose-and-vote-for-Prop-30” endorsements that a few editorial pages chose to run. But one paragraph in the editorial needs special attention.

Referring to arguments made by the opposition to Prop 30 (I was part of the team visiting the editorial board), the editors wrote: The second argument is that if Prop. 30 passes there would be no incentive for lawmakers to reform and restructure state government. Lawmakers would be, in essence, bailed out and free to ignore the state’s ongoing financial issues. That doesn’t make sense. This is a stopgap measure that only backfills lost revenue, and doesn’t come close to fixing Sacramento’s inherently problematic spending structure. It’s up to voters to press their representatives for more fiscal reform.

Do the newspaper group editorial writers truly believe that if Prop 30 passes the legislature will immediately march toward reforms? If so, I’ve got a bridge to sell them.

There is plenty of evidence that if Prop 30 passes, a majority of legislators would decide the problem is solved and that nothing needs to be done until the temporary tax runs its course in seven years – when most of them will be out of office, including the governor who proposed the tax plan.

We will hear the cry: “We have to let Prop 30 work before we consider reforms.”

Evidence is scattered all around that legislators are not interested in tough reforms.

They patted themselves on the back when a version of pension reform was passed. This reform might see some savings in 30 years or so when new hires start retiring. However, the legislature took no action to deal with the immediate problems and the pension’s contributions to California’s “Wall of Debt.”

The rainy day fund measure that was originally scheduled to appear on this November’s ballot was shoved aside by the legislature because members had no interest in establishing what amounts to a spending control. While the rainy day fund measure is now scheduled to appear on the 2014 ballot, the long-term goal of many legislators and their public union allies who encouraged the stalling tactic is to kill the measure all together.

No serious reform will be considered if Proposition 30 passes – but major reforms just might come about if Prop 30 fails.

Frequent Fox and Hounds contributor, Joe Mathews, also sees the possibility of big reforms if Prop 30 falters. Writing in his Prop Zero blog, Mathews wrote, “Californians are being told the defeat of Proposition 30 would be the end of the world.
But the truth is that the defeat of 30 might be a beginning: The beginning of a big — and much delayed — debate over bigger reform in the state.”

Mathews agrees that if Prop 30 passes, “Tax and other reforms would have a tougher road.”

It’s only human nature for legislators to avoid more trying reform battles if they are able to salvage what even editorialists believe is only a band-aid on California’s massive fiscal and governance wound.

Reforms will only come if the legislators are forced to consider new reforms when voters reject the no-reform, tax increase that is Prop 30.