Let me be clear, I don’t want to judge anybody, especially not the supporters of Prop 2, who are legion among the state’s media and good government elites. I believe that what people do within the privacy of their own homes should be up to them, at least as long as it doesn’t involve plastic grocery bags.
But I don’t think it’s fair for Prop 2’s supporters to force their own proclivities upon me and my fellow Californians.
And they have a powerful thing for bondage – whips and chains – that they’re trying to force on the California constitution via Prop 2.
That ballot measure, mistakenly labeled a rainy day fund, is really a motley, impossible-to-understand array of restraints on the discretion of those foolish humans who dare try to govern and make state budgets in Calfornia. Yes, there is a new reserve fund, but that’s not all. There’s a second reserve that involves schools, a host of new formulas for budgeting, and new rules involving pensions and debt. That’s not a rainy day fund, it’s a bag full of whips and chains for the budget. It’s 4600 words seems to include everything but a safe word.
You’d think that those with a yen for such things would already be well-sated by Califfornia’s constitution and budget system, which is already full of formulas and restraints and other rules. But no. The folks behind this can never get enough budget bondage.
The last time we saw them – in 2012 – they were pushing Prop 31, another long and complicated measure full of whips and chains. That lost, but this measure has a better chance, because there’s no real opposition. And the state’s media has been cheerleading for the measure instead of analyzing and trying to tease out its parts.
Thank goodness for the California Budget Project, which took it apart and found that, well, it’s complicated. You can read their work here, though you might not want to do so in front of the kids.
All this said, the idea of a rainy day fund is a good one. But not if it’s built on top of a broken system that already includes such funds. First, the state needs to unplug all its existing whips and chains. With a simpler system, a big rainy day fund that got somewhere close to 20 percent of general fund revenues might make some sense.
Prop 2 doesn’t make any sense. Not even its authors could honestly say what its effect will be. But there are a lot of powerful people who are really into the idea of tying budget down.
Not me. I’m old-fashioned – I prefer my budgeting without handcuffs.