In a front page story today, the Bee chastises voters (presumably some of whom, you know, work at the Bee) for making the state “ungovernable” with our insistence on both mandatory spending and no tax increases.
Only 4 percent [of voters], according to a recent poll, have a “great deal” of confidence that lawmakers can do the right thing on the overdue spending plan.
But the same voters have passed laws that virtually guarantee annual spending increases for education, severely restrict what can be cut from transportation and local governments and make it virtually impossible to raise taxes.
The research that must have gone into pinpointing the voting records of every single California voter boggles the mind. Especially since nobody born after 1960 can be blamed for the passage of Prop 13 in 1978.
(And btw Heckasac, DB, et al.: Do you see the difference between “the same voters have passed laws” and “I can’t help feeling that some of the same people wouldn’t offer sympathy”?)
The story is full of comments from political consultants and others about the patchwork of ballot initiatives requiring mandatory spending and others restricting tax increases, and the effect on these initiatives the state’s budget. The writer, Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Smith, does a good job at pointing out a few angles to consider, for example blaming “huge advertising campaigns powered by special interests” at confusing voters, and noting that there are difficult, but not impossible, ways for the legislature to get around many of the provisions.
However, I can’t help feeling that there could have been another angle to the piece. Voters have yet another reason to be disgusted with the CA legislature: Now they’re blaming the budget problems on us.
My mortgage occupies a fixed amount of our family’s budget, as do various other debts and obligations. When new expenses must be added to the budget, can I complain to the mortgage company that their insistence on mandatory spending is making my budget unmanageable? Likewise, I cannot complain to the mortgage company that my employer has made my budget unmanageable by refusing to increase my income whenever daddy needs a new Starter jacket.
Sure, I get that the ballot initiatives requiring spending on education, for example, can’t be easily circumvented. If times got really tough for my family, I could sell the house. But before I did that it would make sense to cut out everything else that wasn’t nailed down: cable, newspaper, Starter jackets. If I continued to pay for those things while I was in danger of losing my house, wouldn’t that be kind of silly?
I would hope that most legislators understand that the voters trust them to do the same thing with the state’s budget. We are telling you what things we do not want cut, and assuming you will understand that if you need to you should cut the other stuff.
If we voters are guilty of anything, it’s that we assumed our elected leaders would be as responsible with our state as we are with our families.