Democrats in the legislature have reduced the size of their tax on political participation; they want to increase the filing fee for ballot initiative only from $200 to $2,000 – instead of $8,000.

But as the Democrats reduce their price, I’m reconsidering the reasons for my opposition to the idea (as previously outlined here) though not my opposition itself.

As the Democrats’ unreasonable number has gone down, I’m wondering if my support for the $200 status quo is right. Perhaps the problem with the Democrats’ tax isn’t that it’s too big. It’s that it isn’t big enough.

I think I could support the increase, for example, if the price of filing initiative was raised to at least $10 million.

Why $10 million?

It’s an honest figure.

Many newspaper editorials have risen to the defense of the $200 figure, as providing some sort of breath of democratic air for Californians with an idea and  a dream. But that’s fantasy – none of those editorialists have suggested we let good initiatives onto the ballot just because they’re good ideas. Everyone is committed to a money-based qualification system. And no one is getting their idea on a ballot with $200; all they’re getting is attention.

Getting on the ballot requires $2 million to $3 million campaign. A credible campaign for a measure costs millions more. So why give anyone false hope, or waste anyone’s time, with $200? The state should seek to grab the cost of a campaign — $10 million.

That’s fair. For the absurdly wealthy interests and individuals who play at the ballot, $10 million is doable. But it also would hurt enough to discourage totally reckless or stupid measures. It also might mean that much more care and deliberation goes into writing measures – since starting over with a second filing would cost another $10 million. At the least it would slow people down – and that’d be healthy, since California’s initiative process moves much too fast.

Now, for $10 million, you ought to be able to get more than a title and summary. That should guarantee you a spot on the ballot (unless your measure is unconstitutional) and probably some guarantee of free ads on government-supported media.

The other thing about the $10 million fee is that it would end, once and for all, any illusion that this is a people’s process. And that would be healthy. To fix this broken process, Californians first have to understand what it is.