In California, the act of trying to make an inflexible ballot initiative a little more flexible is the Lord’s work.

Which brings me to the fight over Prop 56.

When you voted on that measure, you might have thought you were casting a ballot merely over the raising of taxes on tobacco. But, no. As with so many other ballot measures, you were making budget decisions, as if you were a state lawmaker.

The measure laid out specific places for the money to go, mostly to health programs favored by those interest groups responsible for getting the measure on the ballot and supporting the measure. (Don’t be shocked. “Pay to play” isn’t a corruption when it comes to ballot initiatives. “Pay to play” is the dominant business model).

Specifically, money was supposed to go to health care providers who see Medi-Cal patients. But Gov. Brown is trying to make the initiative more flexible, by jumping in and devoting the money to the Medi-Cal program, rather than payments to doctors.

Having read the measure, I’m not sure who is right on the technical legal matter. But as a political and governance matter, here’s rooting for Brown. It’s a scandal – a century-old scandal – that ballot initiatives can be used to lock into place inflexible budget restrictions. The governor is right to strike a blow for flexibility.

There is a political cost for that—the initiative’s proponents can claim that the will of the people is being violated. That’s a winning argument, even though it’s bogus. Ask most Californians what Prop 56 (which was on last November’s ballot) was about, and even those who voted for it probably couldn’t tell you.