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Primary Election, Tue March 2 2004

Home page of Steve's California Ballot Analysis

Prop 55: Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2004

Borrowing yet more money for "the children", this is another $12B of bonds. My practice is generally to vote no on any bond measure where the proponents say - in capital letters - "DOES NOT RAISE TAXES". This one qualifies directly on that basis. Though technically a bond measure does not mean raising taxes, it's like saying that using your credit card is not spending actual money.

One tidbit:

Said by the Act's opponents:
Before voting, please take a close look at the bond's language. The drafters cleverly set aside more than a quarter of the bond funds for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Only 12% of our state's schoolchildren attend school there. This isn't fair and it isn't right.

I did look at the bond's language, and it's not obvious how this was achieved. I suspect that it's something to do with the "Critically Overcrowed Schools" provisions, but it seems odd that they didn't provide the backup for me to figure this out for myself.

Another odd thing that showed up in the language:

Said by 100820 (1) (b)
If the Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2002 is submitted to the voters at the November 5, 2002, general election and fails passage by the voters, of the amount allocated pursuant to thei paragraph, $25M shall be available for the purposes of Section 51451.5, 51453 and 51455 of the Health and Safety Code.

This Act was written in 2002, before the general election of that year, and this more or less says that if the other measure fails, they'll use money from this one to pay for it. These sections of the law are related to the "The Homebuyer Down Payment Assistance Program of 2002". I don't know if it passed or not, but this is not the right way to get your programs funded - by piggybacking on other measures.

My vote: NO

Prop 56: Budget Accountability Act

This is one of those bills that has so many provisions that it's hard to find out what the real "point" is - each provision could be a main goal, or it could be a red herring intended to hide the real ones. The main provision, as far as I can tell, is the lowering of the majority requirements for budget and appropriations bills from 2/3 to 55%. The other provisions, such as the legislators losing pay for late budgets, look like red herrings to me.

The proponents say that this will reduce "gridlock", and in this respect I agree with them: they won't have as many things getting in the way of spending money or raising taxes, and that's why I'm voting "no". I actually am happy with "gridlock", because as long as they are bickering with each other, they're not spending money.

Likewise, if you're at the ATM and two criminals approach you to take your money, wouldn't you want them to start arguing with each other?

My vote: NO

Prop 57: Economic Recovery Bond Act.

This is essentially a debt-reconsolidation bond, borrowing money from one source to pay off the deficit, and it goes hand-in-hand with Prop 58, which prohibits them from ever doing this again. I don't buy it - I'm voting no.

said by proponents of Prop 57
State government spending in California is out of control. Over the past three years, state spending has significantly exceeded state revenues

This part is true, but if we're spending too much, isn't "borrowing more money" going to make it worse? A critical factor in getting your fiscal house in order is "discipline over time", and this simply defers that judgment day to a future day, with future politicians.

It's one thing to borrow money for a prospective purpose, such as a park or schools (where the thing being paid for will be used by those who do the paying), but this is paying for a retrospective purpose. This is nothing short of "theft" from future generations, and taking the heat off of the Legislature is the worst thing we can do for ourselves.

My vote: NO

Prop 58: California Balanced Budget Act

I expect this one to pass, because a "balanced budget" is appealing to almost everybody. But not me.

Broadly speaking, the entire notion of "balanced budget" is an entirely bogus concept, because it can be achieved by either "reducing spending" or "raising taxes". When deficits are not permitted, which one is the most likely course of legislators? This means that it really doesn't mean very much.

And in the case of Prop 58 specifically, it's full of shenanigans that render the title of the Act dishonest. Short-term borrowing is exempt from the "we won't ever borrow again" rules, and the governor can suspend the required payments into the reserve fund with the stroke of a pen.

That this was passed unanimously by the Assembly is enough for me to oppose it.

My vote: NO