California Proposition 31

According to its website, California Forward is a California political organization which,  wants to “transform our state government through citizen-driven solutions to provide better

California State Capital in Sacramento

California State Capital in Sacramento (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

representation, smarter budgeting and fiscal management, and high quality public services so all Californians have the opportunity to be safe, healthy and prosperous in the global economy.”  A well meaning if not platitude filled mission statement.  California Forward is the driving force behind the California Proposition 31, which will be on the November 6, 2012 ballot in California as a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute.

Should the voters of California approve the ballot initiative the new bill will;

  • Establish a two-year state budget cycle.
  • 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.
  • Permit the Governor of California to cut the budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if the state legislature fails to act.
  • Prohibit the California State Legislature from “creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified.”
  • 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.


The estimated fiscal impact of Proposition 31 as reported by the Office of the Attorney General of California finds, “New costs in the range of millions of dollars annually.”  Certainly something that the Golden State can ill afford given its current set of financial difficulties.

In the California State Official Voter Guide, those in favor of Proposition 31 state;

“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.”

In the California State Official Voter Guide, those in opposition of Proposition 31 state;

“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.”

Those supporting Proposition 31 include the The California Republican Party.  While those opposing the measure include  The California Democratic Party.

An overview of the proposition shows that it would regionalize California’s tax-sharing policy for distributing state funds to local governments if voters approve Proposition 31.  To clarify, regionalization strategies are aimed at transferring tax funding from suburban local governments to larger core area governments.

The Prop. 31 version of regionalization would not combine city, county, special district and school district governments, nor would it create any new taxes.   What it could do is authorize the state to withhold or divert taxes from local governments unless those governments adopted a,  “Strategic Action Plan” to distribute the revenues from the suburbs to the large urban areas in California.  Essentially a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) would remove the wealth from the suburbs.   These SAPS might also restructure the bond ratings from suburban communities.  Given the number of California cities who have already declared bankruptcy, this is not moving in a positive direction.


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