California Proposition 31, Two-Year State Budget Cycle (2012)

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Proposition 31
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Type:Initiated amendment & statute
Referred by:Petition signatures
Topic:State budget
Status:On the ballot
California Proposition 31 is on the November 6, 2012 ballot in California as an combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute.[1] To earn a spot on the state's 2012 ballot, sponsors of the initiative needed to collect 807,615 signatures.[2]

If enacted, it will:

  • Establish a two-year state budget cycle.
  • Prohibit the California State Legislature from "creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified."
  • Permit the Governor of California to cut the budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if the state legislature fails to act.
  • Require performance reviews of all state programs.
  • Require performance goals in state and local budgets.
  • Require publication of all bills at least three days prior to a vote by the California State Senate or California State Assembly.
  • Give counties the power to alter state statutes or regulations related to spending unless the state legislature or a state agency vetoes those changes within 60 days.

Proposition 31 is a project of California Forward. Nicolas Berggruen contributed over $1 million to fund the effort to gather signatures to qualify it for the ballot.[3][4]

Text of measure

See also: Complete text of Proposition 31 and Ballot titles, summaries and fiscal statements for California's 2012 ballot propositions

Title

State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

Summary

The state's official voter guide includes two summaries for each statewide ballot measure. One summary, in bullet-point format, appears in the long-form description of each measure. A shorter form of the summary appears on the ballot label in the front of the voter guide, where there is a short description of each measure.

The long-form summary for Proposition 31 says:

  • Establishes two-year state budget cycle.
  • Prohibits Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified.
  • Permits Governor to cut budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if Legislature fails to act.
  • Requires performance reviews of all state programs.
  • Requires performance goals in state and local budgets.
  • Requires publication of bills at least three days prior to legislative vote.
  • Allows local governments to alter how laws governing state-funded programs apply to them, unless Legislature or state agency vetoes change within 60 days.

The short-form (ballot label) summary for Proposition 31 says:

"Establishes two-year state budget. Sets rules for offsetting new expenditures, and Governor budget cuts in fiscal emergencies. Local governments can alter application of laws governing state-funded programs. Fiscal Impact: Decreased state sales tax revenues of $200 million annually, with corresponding increases of funding to local governments. Other, potentially more significant changes in state and local budgets, depending on future decisions by public officials."

Neither of the two summaries in the final voter guide is identical to the summary that was originally given to Proposition 31, when its sponsors sought a summary prior to circulating petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot. The summary that was given by election officials to Proposition 31 at that time said:

"Establishes two-year state budget cycle. Prohibits Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified. Permits Governor to cut budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if Legislature fails to act. Requires performance reviews of all state programs. Requires performance goals in state and local budgets. Requires publication of all bills at least three days prior to legislative vote. Gives counties power to alter state statutes or regulations related to spending unless Legislature or state agency vetoes changes within 60 days."

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statements for California's 2012 ballot propositions

(This is a summary of the initiative's estimated "fiscal impact on state and local government" prepared by the California Legislative Analyst's Office and the Director of Finance.)

  • Decreased state sales tax revenues of about $200 million annually, with a corresponding increase of funding to certain local governments.
  • Other, potentially more significant changes in state and local spending and revenues, the magnitude of which would depend on future decisions by public officials.

Constitutional changes

California Constitution
Articles
IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXAXBXIXIIXIIIXIII AXIII BXIII CXIII DXIVXVXVIXVIIIXIXXIX AXIX BXIX CXXXXIXXIIXXXIVXXXV

If Proposition 31 is approved, it will change the California Constitution by:

In addition to these proposed changes to the California Constitution, Proposition 31 also proposes various statutory changes. These would effect California's Government Code and its Education Code.

Support

"Yes on Prop 31" website logo

Supporters

Proposition 31 is a project of Nicolas Berggruen and California Forward.

The arguments in favor of Proposition 31 in the state's official voter guide were submitted by:

Other supporters include:

Arguments in favor

  • Cruz Reynoso, a former justice of the California Supreme Court, says, "Prop. 31 seeks to make it clear to Californians how the state is using their money. It requires that the state budget and all laws be made available for public input and review for at least three days prior to politicians voting on them. It's time lawmakers stopped passing the budget in the dark of night and shined some light on how our tax dollars are being spent."[6]

The arguments presented in favor of Proposition 31 in the state's official voter guide include:

  • "Proposition 31 forces state politicians to finally live within their means, and it gives voters and taxpayers critical information to hold politicians accountable."
  • "The non-partisan state auditor reported in an audit of several state agencies between 2003 and 2010 that the state could have saved taxpayers approximately $1.2 billion had the auditor’s own proposals to reform operations and improve efficiency been enacted. The recent effort to create a unified Court Case Management System cost taxpayers more than $500 million, more than $200 million over budget, to connect just 7 of 58 counties before being abandoned."
  • "Proposition 31 requires a real balanced budget. It stops billions of dollars from being spent without public review or citizen oversight. Unless we pass Proposition 31, hundreds of millions of dollars every year will continue to be wasted that could be better used for local schools, law enforcement and other community priorities."
  • "Proposition 31 does not raise taxes, increase costs to taxpayers or set up any new government bureaucracy. Proposition 31 makes clear that its provisions should be implemented with existing resources—and it will generate savings by returning tax dollars to cities and counties."

Donors

Total campaign cash Invest.png
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $4,100,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $201,800

These are the $50,000 and over donors to the "yes" campaign as of October 1, 2012:

Donor Amount
Nicolas Berggruen $1,557,587
California Forward $1,260,967
Lenny Mendonca $175,000
Michael Marston $155,150
Barclay Simpson $100,000
Thomas McKernan, Jr. $100,000
Julie Packard $50,000
Nancy Burnett $50,000
David Spencer $50,000
Peter Weber $50,000
New Majority California PAC $50,000

Opposition

Opponents

The arguments against Proposition 31 in the state's official voter guide were submitted by:

  • Sarah Rose. Rose is the chief executive officer of the California League of Conservation Voters.
  • Joshua Pechthalt. Pechthalt is the president of the California Federation of Teachers.
  • Ron Cottingham. Cottingham is the president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California.
  • Anthony Wright. Wright is the executive director of Health Access California.
  • Lacy Barnes. Barnes is the senior vice-president of the California Federation of Teachers.
  • Lenny Goldberg. Goldberg is the executive director of the California Tax Reform Association.

Other opponents include:

Arguments against

The arguments in opposition to Proposition 31 presented in the state's official voter guide include:

  • "It will lead to lawsuits and confusion, not reform. We all want reform, but instead Proposition 31 adds bureaucracy and creates new problems. It adds layer upon layer of restrictions and poorly defined requirements, leaving key decisions up to unelected bureaucrats, decisions such as whether tax cuts are allowed or programs can be changed—decisions that will be challenged in court year after year."
  • "The state can barely pay its bills now. And the majority of the state’s budget goes to education. Yet this measure transfers $200 million per year from state revenues into a special account to pay for experimental county programs. This is not the time to gamble with money that should be spent on our highest priorities."
  • "As strange as it seems, Proposition 31 actually prevents the state from adopting improvements to programs like education or increasing funding to schools even if it has the money to do so, unless it raises taxes or cuts other programs."
  • "The contradictory nature of these tax provisions would prohibit the state from cutting one tax unless it raises another, even when there is a budget surplus—either this was intended to prevent the state from cutting your taxes or is another case—a serious case—of careless drafting."
  • "California has adopted statewide standards to protect public health, prevent contamination of air and water and provide for the safety of its citizens. Proposition 31 contains a provision that allows local politicians to alter or override these laws without a vote of the people, and without an effective way to prevent abuse."
  • "Performance-based budgeting is more of a slogan than anything else. It’s been tried many times before. The one thing we know it will do is raise costs. The official fiscal analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says it will raise the costs of government by tens of millions of dollars per year for new budgeting practices, with no guarantee any improvement will result. Certain costs, uncertain results."

Other arguments against Proposition 31 include:

  • Political columnist Dan Walters says, "California needs a top- to-bottom overhaul that connects political decision-making to its unique social and economic reality and creates cause-and-effect accountability for those we elect to office. Proposition 31 is akin to giving someone with a flesh-eating infection an aspirin to relieve the pain momentarily when the patient truly needs radical surgery or powerful drugs to stop the infection."[8]
  • Opponents of the measure also point out that the initiative would "vastly expand the power of the governor by allowing him or her to cut or eliminate virtually any existing program during a fiscal emergency. This could mean midyear cuts to K-12 education, the state's public university system, and health care services for low-income households. The only way to prevent this would be a two-thirds vote of each legislative house - no small feat given that neither party holds a supermajority in the Assembly or Senate."[9]

Donors

Total campaign cash Invest.png
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $4,100,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $201,800

These are the $25,000 and over donors to the "No on 31" campaign as of October 1, 2012:

Donor Amount
AFSCME $91,831
Working Families Issues Committee(AFL-CIO) $80,000
Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs $50,000
California School Employees Association $25,000

Editorial opinion

See also: Endorsements of California ballot measures, 2012

"Yes on 31"

  • The Contra Costa Times: It "will help improve the work product of state government. It offers sane and long overdue reforms to the state budget process, it increases local government flexibility, and it begins to establish much tighter fiscal oversight on state spending, which is needed."[10]
  • The Fresno Bee: "Now the voters have another chance to improve state government, this time by passing Proposition 31 on the Nov. 6 ballot. There are many reasons that this measure is needed. A major one is requiring transparency in a legislative system that does its significant business in secret."[11]
  • The Los Angeles Daily News: "It will help lawmakers make better decisions and give local governments sharper tools to solve complex problems."[12]
  • The Redding Record Searchlight: "California Forward's plan is a lot to swallow. There's no way around that. But voters who digest it will see it promises more options for local decision-making, more transparency in the state Legislature and more long-term budget discipline in Sacramento."[13]
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune: "All of those are good ideas, though we worry that opponents may be right in arguing that the Proposition 31 language is imprecise and loose. If the critics are right – and the language of citizen initiatives is often badly flawed – then key elements could be ignored or, worse, turned on their head by legislators seeking to perpetuate the status quo. Still, we see important promise in Proposition 31."[14]
  • The San Jose Mercury News: "There is no magic bullet for fixing California's dysfunctional government. The job will never be complete. But Proposition 31 on the November ballot is one step in the right direction, and while it's not perfect, it's worthwhile."[15]

"No on 31"

  • The Bay Area Reporter: "While establishing a two-year budget cycle has some advantages, this proposition meddles far too much in allowing local governments to ignore state mandated programs such as state environmental requirements. Further, it locks California into permanent underfunding of education, health, and other vital services. This is much too complicated a subject to address with an initiative constitutional amendment."[16]
  • The Sacramento Bee: The California Forward Action Fund is promoting a well-intended but flawed initiative that would amend the California Constitution. Voters should say, "thanks but no thanks" to Proposition 31.[17]
  • The San Francisco Bay Guardian: "We're also disturbed by the idea of giving governors unilateral authority to make cuts during years with big budget deficits, and with a requirement that new state programs must be tied to specific funding sources. Again, many of these ideas sound good at first glance, but placing new restrictions on Legislators will only hinder their ability to respond to problems and popular will. And giving the governor that much power is just dangerous."[18]
  • The Ventura County Star: "The Star is well aware of, and shares, the public's frustration with many aspects of state government and state leaders. There may be an understandable tendency among some voters to throw up their hands and declare that the whole system needs a total overhaul. Instead of Proposition 31, however, it would be better to take up these ideas one at a time."[19]

Polling information

See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures

The Public Policy Institute of California polled Proposition 31 for the first time in mid-September.[20]

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
September 9-16, 2012 PPIC 25% 42% 32% 2,003
October 7-10, 2012 California Business Roundtable 37.6% 35.5% 26.9% 830
October 14-21, 2012 PPIC 24% 48% 28% 2,006
October 21-28, 2012 California Business Roundtable 37.8% 36.8% 25.5% 2,115

Path to the ballot

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See also: California signature requirements
See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

External links

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Supporters:

Opponents:

Additional reading:

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 NBC San Diego, "California Forward Full Steam Ahead", May 10, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 San Francisco Gate, "Calif. budget measure makes November ballot", June 26, 2012
  3. Fox and Hounds Daily, "Hertzberg on the California Forward Initiative", February 23, 2012
  4. KQED, "Reformers Team Up for November Ballot", January 26, 2012
  5. Walnut Creek Patch, "California Republicans Oppose Proposed Tax Measures", August 12, 2012
  6. San Francisco Chronicle, "For Prop. 31: State can't afford status quo", August 7, 2012
  7. Walnut Patch, "Democratic Party Picks State Ballot Measures to Support", July 30, 2012
  8. Modesto Bee, "Dan Walters: California needs more than Proposition 31 to fix what ails it", July 30, 2012
  9. San Francisco Chronicle, "Sarah Swanbeck: Against Prop 31: Reform is a Trojan Horse", August 8, 2012
  10. Contra Costa Times, "Summary of our endorsements on state propositions", September 22, 2012
  11. Fresno Bee, "EDITORIAL: Prop. 31 contains reforms that state urgently needs", October 1, 2012
  12. Los Angeles Daily News, "Editorial: Yes on Prop. 31 -- Measure will help lawmakers make better budget decisions", September 26, 2012
  13. Redding Record Searchlight, "A hard-headed set of reforms to get the state in shape", September 23, 2012
  14. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Prop. 31: A step toward fixing California", September 26, 2012
  15. Mercury News, "Mercury News editorial: Proposition 31 will help state government work better", September 21, 2012
  16. Bay Area Reporter, "Editorial: State ballot measures", September 20, 2012
  17. "Sacramento Bee", "Endorsements: No on the well-intentioned Proposition 31", September 10, 2012
  18. San Francisco Bay Guardian, "Endorsements 2012: State ballot measures", October 3, 2012
  19. Ventura County Star, "No on Prop. 31, it's too much to swallow at once", September 19, 2012
  20. Public Policy Institute of California, "Californians and Their Government", September 2012