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California Government Spending Limit Initiative (2012)

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A California Government Spending Limit Initiative (#12-0007) was approved for circulation in California as a contender for the November 6, 2012 ballot.

Its sponsors, however, did not submit any signatures to election officials by the deadline.

A previous version (#11-0092) was withdrawn from circulation. Its supporters signalled in early March 2012 that they would stop actively working on the measure in 2012 and return with it in 2014. Jon Coupal said, "There was no question we had the resources to qualify. The issue was whether the business community was having second thoughts about whether we'd have the resources to run a credible campaign. I think they looked at the political landscape much like we did and saw some of the tax measures on the ballot and some of the proposals in the Legislature and felt like the timing was not right for spending cap."[1]

Then, on March 14, supporters re-filed the identical language with the Attorney General as #12-0007.

If the initiative had qualified for the ballot and been approved by the state's voters, it would have:

  • Reset the state's spending limit to the fiscal year 2010-11 level.
  • Required that state and local governments spend tax revenue exceeding limit to repay debt when debt is 5% or more of their spending limit.
  • When state debt is less than 5% of state spending limit, split the excess revenue between schools and budget reserves or taxpayer refunds, depending on amount.
  • When local government debt is less than 5% of applicable spending limit, return the excess revenue to taxpayers.
  • Required a constitutional amendment to change terms.
  • Prohibited the California State Legislature from imposing, authorizing or submitting to voters a tax increase in the absence of a 2/3rds supermajority vote.

These changes would have reconfigured some parts of 1979's Proposition 4, the so-called "Gann Limit" Initiative.[2]

Support

Supporters

Arguments in favor

  • "Despite a massive tax hike in 2009, we continue to face billion-dollar deficits year after year, and it is clear that the only way to restore budget accountability is for voters to impose a reasonable spending limit on the politicians."[4]
  • "We need a mechanism to make sure that the drunken sailor DNA of our Legislature doesn't kick in and that we put that money away and use it for debt reduction," according to Jon Coupal.[3]
  • According to Teresa Casazza, president of the California Taxpayers Association, "A spending limit is needed in these times." Casazza also argues that the existing Gann spending-limit level is "so high that there is no limit".[3]
  • "We believe it's been the out-of-control spending that has created the budget problems of California, yet the Legislature and special interests have no desire to control spending," according to Joel Fox, who is the president of the Small Business Action Committee.

Opposition

Opponents

Arguments against

  • "This proposed constitutional amendment would send California's public schools, universities and colleges sliding into perpetual mediocrity. Anyone who wants to restore our scholastic institutions, provide a brighter future for our children, and make our communities safer should be vehemently opposed to this proposed initiative", according to Darrell Steinberg.[3]

Text of measure

See also: Ballot titles, summaries and fiscal statements for California's 2012 ballot propositions

Ballot title:

Government Spending Limits. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Official summary:

"Resets state spending limit to fiscal year 2010-11 level. Requires state and local governments spend tax revenue exceeding limit to repay debt when debt is 5% or more of their spending limit. When state debt is less than 5% of state spending limit, splits excess revenue between schools and budget reserves or taxpayer refunds, depending on amount. When local government debt is less than 5% of applicable spending limit, returns excess revenue to taxpayers. Requires constitutional amendment to change terms. Forecloses Legislature's imposition, authorization, or submission to voters of tax increase absent two-thirds vote."

Fiscal impact estimate:

"For state government, a much greater likelihood that spending will be constrained by the constitutional spending limit. Consequently, state spending for ongoing programs—such as schools, community colleges, universities, health and social services, and corrections-may have to be reduced in certain years, potentially by billions of dollars. In addition, the measure could result in more state funding for reduction of bond debt, particularly in the near term, and in the future, more one-time funding for schools and community colleges, budget reserves, and taxpayer refunds."

California state budget

See also: California state budget
  • The state general fund spent $91.5 billion in 2010-11.[2]
  • The peak year for state spending in California was 2007-2008, when the state spent $103.0 billion peak in 2007-08.[2]
  • Annual state spending in California increased by $39 billion between 2000 and 2011.[4]
  • The state's debt was approximately $200 billion as of early 2012.[4]

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements
  • Steven S. Lucas and Thomas W. Hiltachk submitted a letter requesting a ballot title for Version #11-0092 on December 6, 2011.
  • The ballot title and ballot summary for Version #11-0092 were issued by the Attorney General of California's office on February 7, 2012.
  • The 150-day circulation deadline for #11-0092 was July 6, 2012.
  • In early March, supporters announced to the press that they were abandoning the effort to qualify the measure for the 2012 ballot.
  • On March 14, 2012, supporters filed #12-0007. It was identical to #11-0092.
  • The ballot title and ballot summary for Version #12-0007 were issued by the Attorney General of California's office on March 16, 2012, just two days after its proponents asked for the title and summary.
  • 807,615 valid signatures were required for qualification purposes.
  • The 150-day circulation deadline for #12-0007 was August 13, 2012. Filing sufficient signatures by that date would have allowed the initiative to compete on the November 2014 ballot.
  • No signatures were filed by the filing deadline.

External links

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References