Regardless of what some Democratic leaders say, Governor Schwarzenegger and Republican legislative leaders are campaigning for Proposition 1A as a “spending cap.”
Is that a wise decision? The recent history suggests that a spending cap is something that causes people to oppose, not support, a measure.
Regarding Proposition 1A, John Wildemuth at the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier about the comparison with the spending cap imposed in Colorado. Proponents and opponents recognize that Colorado infamous “TABOR,” or Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, was a much harsher cap than the one proposed in Prop 1A. But that doesn’t make Proposition 1A benign. After all, it was something forced on the ballot by Republican leaders as the price for passing a budget, and has the same ideological intent of constraining spending. Is that the direction that voters really want to go? As Wildemuth indicates:
“In Colorado, which led the way with its 1992 spending cap, voters have suspended key provisions of their measure to free money for state services. Colorado’s experience has helped persuade voters in other states to reject plans for their own spending limits. Oregon, Nebraska and Maine voted down initiatives in 2006, and efforts to get the caps on the ballot in other states have been unsuccessful.”
In focusing on other failed attempts in other states, the article actually neglects Governor Schwarzenegger’s last attempt at imposing a spending cap on the state, Proposition 76. During the special election in 2005, Proposition 76 got only 37.6% of the vote, with 62.4% against. It did the worst of all of Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposals that year.
Some pundits have suggested that these measures may go down because of the extension of the tax increases: there’s no doubt that some opposition to Prop 1A is coming from that direction. But Prop 76 and oher evidence suggests that the spending cap may be the greater liability for the measure. Think about this: the recent Field poll has Proposition 1A, at 40%, and 49% against. That means Proposition 1A, a spending cap with tax increases, is doing *better* than a spending cap alone, Proposition 76, did.
Fundamentally, voters simply aren’t excited about placing caps and limits on health, schools, higher education, or other vital services that they depend on.