Proposition 31 – Pros and Cons for a Far-Reaching Idea

I just looked over Proposition 31 and whoa!  It’s a weird one that could have far-reaching effects on how the state is governed.  It should be getting a lot more attention, and I should have included it in an earlier post about props. 32 and 40, since that post was devoted to explaining those propositions that would change the basic rules of politics in the Golden State.   Here are some facts about proposition 31, and some pros and cons.


What Is Prop. 31?  Why Is It On the Ballot?

Unlike about one-half of this year’s ballot propositions, prop. 31 is not some zillionaire’s personal agenda or an attempt to tilt elections in favor of one party.  The impetus for it is a genuine good-government group called California Forward.  The measure seems to be a mix of ideas for improving the state’s governance.  But, many analysts are unclear what impact they would have and worry that, among other effects, it might lead to an even more constipated bureaucracy and shift too much power from the state government to locals governments.  What changes?

The official CA voter guide says that proposition 31:

  • 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.

Sound good?  Some do to me, too, especially the switch to a two-year budget cycle.  But, the measure has been heavily criticized as pretty on the outside but ugly in the particulars.  It strikes some as confusing, overly complicated, and likely to make state government less, not more, efficient.  Moreover, it continues California’s disastrous habit of government-by-a-150+-page-Constitution.  Proposition 31 contains over 8,000 words –all of which would become part of the state’s constitution, meaning they cannot be changed again except via another initiative.

What concerns me more is that prop. 31 would shift a lot of power around the different levels of California’s government and voters do not have a clue about it.  The governor gets “emergency” powers to impose his/her will in budget matters, slicing and dicing budget line items at will,presumably.  Local and regional governments get a lot more flexibility in how they carry out laws and regulations.  Great, in theory.  But, prop. 31 may grant them flexibility enough to ignore state-level environmental and other regulations.  Read these articles carefully and I’ll have a better understanding of prop. 31 by Monday’s meeting.

Oh, and, FWIW, the Democratic Party and the unions oppose prop. 31, and the GOP and the CA Chamber of Commerce endorse it.  If that helps anyone one way or the other.


Links to Endorsements and Pro/Con Opinions

  • The Yes on 31 website.
  • San Diego UT editorial in favor of it.
  • A must-read LA Times editorial explains what’s wrong with prop. 31.
  • Or, try this highly critical Sacramento Bee editorial.
  • One (liberal) analyst says:  “Proposition 31 has some good points. Providing a small financial incentive for local governments to coordinate public services might be a good idea. It’s also got some iffy points. Allowing the governor more authority to cut spending in an emergency is a so-so idea. And it’s got some bad points. Micromanaging the budget process is a bad idea, and so is Prop. 31’s too-vague plan to allow local governments to override state regulations. All in all, Prop. 31 is a hodgepodge that just doesn’t pass a high enough bar to deserve support.” 

My Previous Posts On Other CA 2012 Propositions:

Props. 32 and 40, that would change the rules of CA politics.

Prop. 33, auto insurance rates.

Props, 34, 35, 36, Repeal death penalty, increase human trafficking penalties, ease the state’s 3-strikes law.

Prop. 37, requires labeling of GMO content of most food.

Props 30 and 38, that raise taxes to stop large cuts to education.


One response

  1. I just want to make a general statement and say thank you for taking the time to lay out all the info you did on props 30-40. I really fealt you presented all of the material in an unbiased manner which helped me understand these propositions and make my decisions. Trying to decipher the general election info and all of the media/TV etc. leaves me feeling unknowledgeable and often wondering if words are twisted and deceiptful!

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