A recent article by Sacramento Bee writer Daniel Walters, while not directly addressing state Propositions 1A-F, is a strong argument against them. Believe me, I would vote for these props in a heartbeat if I really believed they would solve California’s fiscal crisis. They will not. I cannot place the full blame for this crisis on the Legislature and Governor- they certainly share the blame. We the voters have created the foundation for financial mismanagement with our rubber stamp approvals of propositions that tie the hands of our elected officials, not to mention our approval of bond measures that add to the State’s growing debt service.
Dan Walters’ article discusses how new property tax revenues emerging from redevelopment projects cannot be used for purposes outside of city controlled redevelopment agencies.
That seems counter-productive. Isn’t the purpose of redevelopment to generate new revenue for the greater good of our citizens? Instead, the funds are in a lockbox, as Al Gore would have called it, and their use is limited to projects that may not represent the best utilization of funds.
Another example is Quimby Funds. These represent amounts set aside from developers that are to be used to develop new parks. The problem is, they do not allow for the funding of ongoing maintenance, so cash-strapped cities are reluctant to use them and the money sits in a lockbox, untouchable for use anywhere else.
Remember Prop 98? That had a huge impact on how California prepares the budget. It set a minimum funding level for education in the State. The formula is quite complex- it really can’t be calculated without completing the overall budget first. Now that’s a Catch-22! Please go to this link to learn more about how it works.
Prop 98 greatly limits the flexibility of the State to allocate the budget but, more importantly, it does not provide an incentive for the money to be spent wisely. It’s as if someone were to give you a pre-loaded gift card and a very limited time to use it. You would probably make some worthwhile buying decisions, but some of it would go for frivolous purchases, too.
Getting back to the propositions on the May 19th ballot: remember the story of the Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, then swallowed a frog to catch the fly … In the end, she swallows a horse to catch whatever she had just ingested and as the poem goes, “she died, of course.” That is exactly what is happening with our stream of propositions. We are passing bad propositions to counter equally bad ones.
What is more, there is no process to evaluate the effectiveness of the spending. Instead, a rainy day fund will be established that will merely offset the effects of poor decisions, not to mention other half-baked strategies such as borrowing against future lotto revenues ( I might feel better with that specific proposal if Las Vegas managed it and assigned odds).
There is no substitute for sound management. We cannot legislate it. I don’t even think we can buy it.
Three things will have to happen before we can reasonably expect something comparable to sound management: re-districting (in order to break up the ideologic fiefdoms that we call Senate and Assembly districts), reduction of the two-thirds requirement to pass a budget, and competent analysis of the benefits of government programs. It will not be enough for any less than all three of these to occur.