Did Californians, struggling with spending and high taxes,vote against solvency yesterday? That's the implication of the headline over Jennifer Steinhauer's Wednesday story on voters rejecting five of six ballot initatives that would have raisedthe income tax, the car tax, and the sales tax:"Calif. Voters Reject Measures to Keep State Solvent."
Voters in the state, frustrated with big-spending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger andthe state legislature,rejected five ballot measures, including a major one, Prop 1A, that would have raised several kinds of taxes and imposed a "spending cap." Steinhauer assumed a vote for Prop 1A would have kept the state "solvent," and assumed the validity of the spending cap even though it is much leakier than advertised - for instance, the cap could be adjusted upward in the event of a future tax increase.
A smattering of California voters on Tuesday soundly rejected five ballot measures designed to keep the state solvent through the rest of the year.
The results dealt a severe setback to the state's fragile fiscal structure and to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislators who cobbled together the measures as part of a last-minute budget deal passed in February.
The measures, which would have prolonged tax increases, capped state spending, earmarked money for education and involved the state in a complex borrowing scheme against its lottery, were rejected by roughly 60 percent of those who voted. The failure of the measures, combined with falling revenues since the state passed its budget, leaves California with a $21 billion new hole to fill, while foreclosure rates and unemployment remain vexing problems here.
The central measure, Proposition 1A, would have increased the state's rainy-day fund but also restrict spending in future years, and extend several temporary taxes. Proposition 1B, which was connected to 1A, would have required $9.3 billion to be paid to education to make up for shortfalls in spending levels set by a voter-approved proposition in 1988. Voters indicated in polls earlier this month that they had a distaste for protracted taxes, caps on spending during inflation periods and general legislative and gubernatorial will.
Steinhauer focused on the most politically sensitive cuts that might transpire, ignoring the layers of California bureaucracy that could be whacked without anyone noticing:
But voters - roughly 10 percent of those registered, according to midday figures - seemed to have lost patience with ideas cooked up by legislators to fix the state's perpetual budget imbalances. The governor and lawmakers will now be forced to debate yet again what methods will be used to set the balance sheet right and vote on new measures to cut spending. Those proposed measures will be draconian and politically difficult, including large education cuts and reductions in prison sentences.