Thursday, March 5, 2009

What, ANOTHER California Special Election?

Yep. Mark you calendar - May 19th.After an endless stream of municipal, state and national elections, California activists and organizers are going to have an uphill battle turning out the vote.

Yet the May election might be one of the most important elections for California citizens in living memory.


Remember the craptacular budget the Republican legislative minority crammed down our throats last month? The one that will force an average working family of four to pay an additional $1000 over the next 17 months in regressive taxes like sales tax, personal income tax and vehicle license fees while, at the same time, big business got about one billion dollars in permanent tax breaks?

Yeah, that one.

Well, it turns out that the budget deal to close California's $42 billion deficit will fall apart unless voters approve 6 initiatives on May 19th.  (click on the links for a full description):

  • Proposition 1A- Stabilizes State Budget. Reforms California Budget Process. Limits State Spending. Increases 'Rainy Day' Budget Stabilization Fund.

  • Proposition 1D - Protects Children's Services Funding. Helps Balance State Budget.

  • Proposition 1E - Ensures Funding for Children's Mental Health Services. Helps Balance State Budget.

  • Proposition 1F - Elected Officials' Salaries. Prevents Pay Increases During Budget Deficit Years.

Of all these, Proposition 1A will cause the most long-term damage to our state. It's quite literally the last nail in the coffin built by Proposition 13.  Should Prop 1A, pass, it would further tie the hands of the California legislature, making permanent recent spending cuts for education, social-services, and environmental protection.

Yet at the same time, Prop 1A may prove the most vulnerable, since passage would also extend regressive tax increases for another 4 years (as opposed to 2 should it fail). As a result, Prop 1A may prove as unpopular on the right as it is on the left

All this, of course, are just symptoms of a greater disease. As it stands now, our legislature can neither pass a budget nor raise taxes without a 2/3ds majority. As a result, we've had to fill budget gaps by floating bond measures (borrowing) and slashing programs.

But we can't keep patching up the 8th largest economy in the world with band-aids and super glue. Unless we find away to loosen the grip of a small minority of legislators, this state will fall apart, and likely drag the rest of the country down with it.

Essentially, there are only two ways to do this, turn 5 Republican seats in the state legislature Blue to achieve a 2/3ds super-majority, or pass a ballot initiative that would repeal the 2/3ds rule for both passing a budget and for raising taxes.

The recent budget drama has pushed this issue front and center. Already there are three budget-related initiatives gathering signatures. Yet others are being proposed. This fight will not be easy, (ironically, it would take a 2/3ds majority to repeal the 2/3ds majority!) and already there's a lot of debate on the best course of action, but at least the conversation is happening.

There's something everyone reading this can do right now to keep that conversation going. 

Sign the Pledge  Go to the Courage Campaign's "Stop The Insanity" page and pledge to restore majority rule in California. By pledging your support, you'll help organizers build a broad grassroots coalition with other progressive organizations to restore majority rule in California.  Members of that coalition are working on polling, reaching out to legislators, and gathering the information needed to get a winning and effective initiative on the ballot.

Write to the Courage Campaign organizers and tell them you support majority rule for both the budget and for raises taxes. Otherwise we'll just end up in the same place, borrowing billions, patching the holes with regressive taxes, and slashing programs. Speaker Karen Bass put it this way:

"If the people of California are the victims in the chronic budget crisis, the 2/3 vote and the outdated revenue system are the villains. Because of the two thirds vote requirement when legislative Democrats made cuts and supported taxes-- and when the governor made cuts and supported taxes-a small Republican minority was still able to hold the budget hostage for almost three months."

I'm fired up and ready to go on this. Are you?

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