Earlier today, the Health Access California board re-affirmed its position to oppose Proposition 1A. Also today, we were joined by the League of Women Voters. From their release opposing 1A, 1C, 1D, and 1E:
“We oppose these measures because they are NOT the solution to our long term financial crisis, with the continuing structural deficit in the state budget and flawed budget process,” said Janis R. Hirohama, president of the League. “We make this decision with regret. We would support real reform to make the state budget process more accountable and give the Legislature and Governor effective tools to advance state priorities. However, these hurriedly drafted propositions, produced at the end of a flawed process that kept both the public and most legislators in the dark, will only make our fiscal situation worse.”
Proposition 1A is touted by its proponents as the way to bring stability to the budget process. But what it will really do is tie the hands of the Legislature and Governor as they face changing needs for state and local government services. It will keep them from taking into account the state’s changing demographics and growth in the actual cost of important services like health care.
“Although some claim there is an urgency to pass Prop. 1A to resolve our state’s budget problems, we disagree,” said Hirohama. “Most of its provisions will not take effect for two years—two years that we should spend hammering out real solutions to our budget and fiscal challenges.”
The League believes elected officials should be allowed to carry out their responsibilities with flexibility. Years of “ballot-box budgeting” and formulas for auto-pilot spending have greatly eroded that flexibility. Prop. 1A, however, adds to the problem. For example, it dictates how half the funds that must be transferred to the “Budget Stabilization Fund” are to be used; it removes the Governor’s ability to suspend transfers to the fund in difficult years; and it imposes new formulas for calculating “unanticipated revenues” and specifies how they can be used in good years. And, after the deep cuts made during these strapped times, it could lock in a reduced level of services by failing to properly take account of increased caseloads and program costs.
If Prop. 1A passes, the Governor would be given new power to make mid-year cuts and suspend COLAs in state programs without legislative oversight. The League believes that mid-year budget adjustments should require joint action of the legislative and executive branches so that checks and balances are maintained…
The League of Women Voters recognizes that California is facing the worst budget crisis in its history, with the worldwide recession severely affecting state revenues and the need for state services. Moreover, our budget system is broken and in desperate need of reform. This year illustrates the need to abandon the two-thirds vote requirement for passing budgets and raising revenues, and we must also look at other budget reforms. In the meantime, a new tax commission is considering ways to broaden or stabilize our revenues. “There is much that needs to be done,” Hirohama stated, “but we are certain that the propositions on the May 19 ballot are not the answer.”
Wyatt Buchanan at the San Francisco Chronicle reported about Governor Schwarzenegger speech regarding the budget and the May 19th ballot measures today in San Francisco. It’s a stunning performance, where he re-writes history and attempts to re-cast his own role in making the budget situation worse. He says he’s against taxes, even though he recognized the need, even before this crisis, to raise taxes to fund his health reform. He castigates the “math skills” of opponents of the measure… Our math leads us to wonder how the Prop 1A formulas in the spending cap will take into account medical inflation, a doubling of the senior population, and other demographic changes.
Other organizations will be making decisions in the next few weeks. Let’s remember, these Propositions were only placed on the ballot a few weeks ago. And with Prop 1A, etc., there was no public hearing or analysis or opportunity to review the measures before the legislative vote in the middle of the night. So organizations are acually being relatively quick in their decision making progress, but it does take some time. We’ll see how the opposition shapes up in the next few weeks…