One paper, lots of opinions…

Here’s just two quick opinion articles from the Los Angeles Times on Proposition 1A.

One is by columnist Michael Hiltzik, where he says: “The bottom line is that 1A does nothing to narrow the existing budget deficit, and may make deficits worse in the future. As the nonpartisan California Budget Project points out, because the costs of many services provided by state government, such as healthcare, grow much faster than inflation, the formula will squeeze almost every other budget category. That makes Proposition 1A a time bomb.”

Another is by former state Treasurer Phil Angelides, who comments: “The measure would actually deepen California’s budget woes. It would require that money be stashed away in a rainy-day fund even though the state is already pulling in less money each year than it spends. That’s a little like telling a family facing foreclosure that they’re not putting enough money away in their 401(k) account. Even in tough budget years, it would force additional cuts of more than $1 billion — an amount equal to about one-third of the University of California system’s budget.”

“Proposition 1A would squeeze spending on crucial investments in colleges and healthcare, and it would prevent the state from restoring needed programs as the economy rebounds. It also would lock confusing, complicated, autopilot budget language into the state Constitution — making it harder, not easier, to adopt common-sense budgets. With complex formulas and linear regression models cemented into law, the already daunting task of budgeting would be that much harder.”

To be fair, the editorial board of the LA Times did ultimately support the measure, but grudgingly: “The reserve fund is closely linked to the spending cap, and that gives us pause, because The Times has long objected to hands-free budgeting — decision-making that removes human thinking from the fiscal planning process. But after several decades’ worth of ballot measures that impose formulas… California finds itself so far down the robo-budgeting road that it may need a bit more automation just to regain its bearings.”

I am not sure that the logic holds, that the solution for auto-pilot budgeting is even more auto-pilot budgeting. To me, it seems Prop 1A just adds a whole other layer of paralysis, obscuring the accountability we need to fix the budget mess. We’ll see what the voters say May 19th.
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