Saturday, October 13, 2012

California voter guide

California voters have the chance this election to prove that our state is governable . . . or not. Governor Brown put Proposition 30 on the ballot to cut through the legislative gridlock that prevents the state from obtaining the revenues to fund the programs that people want, and that our elected representatives have voted for. The gridlock has been caused by a two thirds vote requirement for raising taxes, and the Republican legislators who have taken a pledge never to raise taxes, no matter what the need, or how strong the will of the people. The initiative process provides the means to allow democracy to triumph over this minority, and for the government finally to get its financial house in order.

We ought to trust the legislative process and the governor enough to feel comfortable that they have come up with the best plan that is achievable under the circumstances. Not a perfect plan, but the best plan achievable. But we also have to proceed with the knowledge that the flawed legislative process cannot achieve this plan by itself, because of the factors mentioned above. Therefore the voters need to ratify this plan by voting yes on proposition 30. It's as simple as that.

It's also as simple as this: if proposition 30 is defeated, further cutbacks, on top of draconian cuts already put in place, will take effect, about $6 billion in cuts overall. Almost all of those cuts will hit hard at public schools, community colleges, and the state university system. But a lot of other services will be affected. California needs more money for schools. Therefore, again, the voters need to support Proposition 30. Another way of looking at this is that we have the choice between on the one hand, asking everyone (but mostly the very wealthy) to pay a little bit more, or on the other hand, asking not very well off community college and university students to pay more, and depriving every kid in K-12 public schools of needed school days, teachers and other resources. Sounds like a no brainer to me.

(Michael Malone photo)
This next part gets a little convoluted, so bear with me. Remember I said the initiative process can be a beautiful expression of democracy that has the power to break a legislative logjam. That is what proposition 30 does. But the initiative process, unfortunately, also can  become captive to the dreams of wealthy individuals and powerful corporations. There is a competing proposition on the ballot, proposition 38, sponsored by Molly Munger, a very wealthy attorney and education activist, who supports increased funding for schools, a worthy cause. Proposition 38 could be the greatest idea in the world. I'm not going to get into a debate about its relative merits compared to proposition 30. I'm not even going to tell anyone to vote no on 38, just so long as people vote yes on 30.  Got that? YES ON 30!

But proposition 38 creates confusion, and it was not conceived as part of a democratic process, as was the proposition crafted by our elected governor. And now the backers of proposition 38 are waging war on proposition 30, which is only going to spread negativity and even more confusion, and will therefore likely doom both propositions. To top it off--and this is the part that is so unbelievable you couldn't make it up if you tried--Molly Munger's brother is waging his own war on proposition 30 from the conservative side. What both Mungers have in common is a distrust of our legislature, a lot of money, and a desire to substitute their personal judgments of how to solve our educational and fiscal problems for the judgment of our elected governor, whose plan is supported by the majority of our elected legislature. If the two campaigns financed by these two wealthy individuals (brother and sister!),who come at this effort with supposedly opposite goals, are successful, the losers will be every student attending any kind of public school or college in California.

This is where I could launch into a tirade about where do two rich people get off having the gall to screw up our democracy so badly. But I'll refrain from doing that. All I need to remind people is to ignore all that noise, and just vote YES on 30.

There are some other propositions on the ballot worthy of consideration, and others not so worthy. To help sort out the merits and lack of merits, check out this LA Times voter guide, as well as these LA Times endorsements, Also check out this progressive voter guide, which lists the recommendations of a whole bunch of progressive organizations on all of the propositions on the ballot. Note that they all agree on one thing: YES ON PROPOSITION 30.


  1. I would have voted YES on 30 had the governor not promised BILLIONS of dollars we don't have to high speed rail. If we can afford high speed rail then we can afford the programs you discuss _instead_ of high speed rail. Essentially, YES on 30 could be viewed as raising funds for high speed rail. I won't do it.

  2. You're just making excuses.

    In order to compete, California must have the best transportation system in the world, and also the best schools in the world. We can settle for nothing less. Unless you want to doom our state and our country to being third rate.

    Anyone who is saying that we cannot afford the best schools, and the best train system, is just plain lying.

  3. California can afford the best schools in the world!

    Anyone who claims the tens of BILLIONS of dollars plan for high speed rail is affordable in California is lying.

  4. It is bond money that the voters already approved, to be repaid out of future fare revenue. It is also federal transportation dollars already appropriated. To the extent we might have to subsidize the train in the future, so what? We already subsidize every other form of transportation. So it can't possibly be a lie to say that the train is not affordable. We've already paid for the first segment, and we'll just have to figure out how to pay for the next segment when the time comes. It is all completely doable.

    I will most likely not permit any more comments here on the topic of high speed rail, since it is completely off topic. It has nothing to do with proposition 30. Nothing whatsoever. The only choice you have to make about proposition 30 is whether you want to allow another $5 billion in cuts to education, or vote for a modest tax increase to prevent that. We agree that California can afford the best schools in the world. So let's step up to the plate and pay for them. That has nothing to do with trains.