What the Election Results Mean For California

The recent mid-term elections entailed a number of changes in California. Here are some of the implications:

A Republican Wave That Did Not Reach California

While Republicans did extremely well nationwide yesterday, California Republicans had reason to be disappointed.

Republican campaigns in the senatorial and gubernatorial races, seemingly competitive, ended up falling far short of victory. Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman lost by double-digits, while Republican senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina barely cracked the single digits.

There were other signs that the Republican national wave failed to break the West Coast: Republicans may have lost every statewide office for the eighth consecutive time (the results for the extremely close Attorney General race are still pending), while losing a seat in the State Assembly. This came as they flipped about nineteen legislative chambers to their side nationally. On the congressional level, Republicans may also have failed to pick up a single congressional district (two extremely close districts are undecided pending the count of all absentee ballots, but they seem to favor Democrats at the moment). This came as Republicans won over 60 congressional seats nationally.

California has thus proved itself once more as a Democratic bastion. That a competitive Republican senatorial candidate, running against an unpopular incumbent, could barely crack the single-digits in a wave election like this indicates that the Republican Party still has trouble winning over the increasingly diverse California electorate.

Positive Changes in Propositions

California also voted on a number of propositions. For the most part, the results were quite positive. On five out of the seven propositions, Californians followed the endorsements put out by this blog.

Of greatest importance was Proposition 25, which required a majority vote to pass the budget. Californians voted yes on this proposition, thus taking a major step towards more stable budgets. Voters also came strongly out against gerrymandering, approving Proposition 20 and defeating Proposition 27.

Unfortunately, Californians also approved two propositions which make passing budgets much more difficult. By approving Proposition 22 and Proposition 26, Californians took billions of potential revenue sources away from an already revenue-starved state. Proposition 22 prohibits the state from borrowing money from local governments, while Proposition 26 sets a two-thirds supermajority requirement for some fees to be passed.

The approval of Proposition 26 is particularly bizarre when one considers that Californians also voted for Proposition 25. Proposition 25 makes passing budgets much easier; Proposition 26 makes passing them much harder. The two do the exact opposite things, and they approach the budget in the exact opposite way. Voting yes on both propositions is kind of like being pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. Yet apparently half a million Californians, at the very least, did exactly that this Tuesday.

All in all, these results - especially the approval of Proposition 25 - leave California in a better state than it was before the election. While the approval of Proposition 22 and Proposition 26 do real damage to the budget, the benefit derived from Proposition 25 more than overcomes that.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/


Vote Yes on Proposition 25: Majority Vote to Pass a Budget

This is the fifth part of a series of posts giving recommendations on California’s propositions. This post recommends a “yes” vote on Proposition 25, which requires a majority vote in the legislature to pass a budget.

Proposition 26 will be the subject of the next post in this series.

The Structural Problems in California’s Budget Process…

Proposition 25 is the most important proposition being proposed this year. While Proposition 25 may not exactly ignite passion in the hearts of voters, it is far more important for California’s future than the much-debated Propositions 19 and 23.

To understand why this is so, one needs to take a look at the structure of California’s budget.

California’s budget is governed by a set of stringent regulations. Constitutionally, passage requires a two-thirds majority in the legislature. Proposition 13 mandates that tax increases also require a two-thirds majority in the legislature.

In both requirements, California is very much an exception. The general rule is that tax increases and budgets need only a majority vote. Several states, mostly in the West and South, require a supermajority for a tax increase. Only Arkansas and Rhode Island (an odd couple) mandate supermajority votes for budgets to pass.

No other state in the union, however, requires that both budgets and tax increases be passed with a supermajority.

A two-thirds majority for both tax increases and budget passage necessitates compromise between the two parties. Unfortunately, the ideological difference between Democrats and Republican is unusually wide in California. The Democratic Party in Mississippi is probably more conservative than many moderate Republicans on the national level, while the Republican Party in New York is probably more liberal than many moderate Democrats on the national level. In the Democratic stronghold of California, however, the Republican Party’s positions lie quite far to the right on the national spectrum.

Combined, these factors make passing a budget in California one of the hardest endeavors in American politics. Since 1980 – shortly after the two-thirds requirement for tax increases was instituted – California has passed an on-time budget a grand total of five times. Every budget is subject to torturous negotiations as state officials desperately attempt to reach the two-thirds supermajority requirement (imagine the chaos that would take place if the House of Representatives required a two-thirds vote to pass a budget!)

This has quite negative implications for the well-being of California. Constant budget fights have done bad damage to California’s image, hurting private investment and creating great uncertainty. Budget impasses hurt public sector workers and public services provided by the government.

And How Proposition 25 Solves One of Them

Proposition 25 ends the two-thirds requirement to pass a budget. This will make passing budgets substantially easier, and it constitutes one part of a plethora of necessary reforms in fixing California’s flawed budget system.

There are some that oppose Proposition 25, arguing that it constitutes a union-backed power grab for California’s Democratic Party – and that it therefore ought to be opposed.

It is true that Proposition 25 is funded by unions, and that it will benefit the Democratic Party in California (which has a majority in the legislature). But just because a proposition helps one party or another doesn’t mean that it deserves opposition. Getting more people to vote would probably help the Democratic Party, but nobody argues that higher voter turn-out is a bad thing because of that.

Moreover, there is an easy way for Republicans to stop Proposition 25 from benefiting Democrats: they can win elections, and take over the legislature. This is what happens in 47 other states and the federal government. It works much better than what happens in California.

Passing Proposition 25 will not end budget crises; even if passed, there will still be a number of problems with California’s budget. Tax increases will still require supermajority votes, for instance. California’s budget still relies too much on income taxes, which fall steeply during recessions, as a result of Proposition 13. Solving that problem necessitates a larger rainy day fund. Then there is reforming the broken proposition system itself.

But despite all this, Proposition 25 is a fundamental reform to California’s broken budget process. It constitutes a change that is vitally important for California’s future well-being – even if, horror of horrors, it happens to help the Democratic Party.

That is why I strongly, strongly recommend a “yes” vote on Proposition 25.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Vote No on Proposition 21: State Parks

This is the second part of a series of posts giving recommendations on California’s propositions. This post recommends a “no” vote on Proposition 21, which establishes a vehicle license fee in order to fund state parks.

Proposition 22 will be the subject of the next post in this series.

California’s Broken Proposition System

One of the great flaws in California’s proposition system is the way in which it creates ballot-box budgeting. Voters are always willing to spend more money on more goodies: ten million here to fund K-12 education, ten million there to fight crime, ten million to construct hospitals, ten million to protect the environment.

Five hundred million, in this latest example of ballot-box budgeting, for state parks.

But voters also don’t like high taxes. They are always willing to vote for propositions to cut taxes: tax cuts for businesses, tax cuts on mortgages, tax cuts on sales taxes, a two-thirds legislative requirement to raise taxes.

If voters want to spend money on more goodies, but also want to cut taxes for themselves, the natural result is a budget deficit. And this has been exactly the result for the past several years in California.

The power of the budget ought to lie with the elected officials that compose the legislature. That is one of the main reasons why a legislature exists: to make the tough budget decisions that will inevitably hurt somebody and be unpopular. The proposition system cripples the legislature’s ability to do this.

And Proposition 21

Proposition 21 is the latest example of ballot-box budgeting. Let’s spend five hundred million to improve California’s state parks! Who isn’t for state parks?

It will probably pass. The proposition sounds good on the surface, and nobody has a vested interest to oppose it. Donations in favor of the proposition are in the millions, while only one organization has donated more than $5,000 to campaign against the proposition.

Money, however, is not free. Five hundred million raised from vehicle taxes and spent on state parks is five hundred million that will not be used elsewhere. There are many other just as worthy causes with which that money can be spent: on social welfare or roads and infrastructure, to give just two examples. I, personally, would love to use five hundred million to reduce student tuition at the University of California system rather than to improve state parks.

In the end, Proposition 21 is a prime example of the detailed, in-the-weeds budgetary matters which too often come up in propositions. These things should not be decided at the ballot box, but by the legislature. That is its job.

That is why I recommend a “no” vote on Proposition 21.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

What's the Matter with CALIFORNIA???

I wrote this for today's Beyond Chron.

Last night, Barack Obama accomplished what no insurgent presidential candidate has ever done: survive Super Tuesday.  The Illinois Senator did so by amassing a broad coalition of blacks, liberals and red-state Democrats - paying off dividends across the country except in California.  Hillary Clinton's ten-point win here exceeded expectations, and such baffling returns will keep progressives guessing for days what went wrong in the Golden State.  Clinton won in part because she got a large share of support from white women and Latinos - her traditional base - as well as from Asian-Americans.  But Obama also got slaughtered in the Central Valley and other conservative parts of the state - defying the national trend, and confining his base to San Francisco and other liberal coastal counties.  The state's electorate was also very conservative when it came to Propositions: voters approved 4 anti-labor Indian gaming compacts, sinked a measure to fund community colleges, and (while it's good news for progressives that Prop 93 failed) kept the status quo for term limits.

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My endorsements - California

President - Barack Obama

I was supporting Edwards, but his campaign is dead in the water. Obama is about as conservative as Clinton on most points, and I'm a little concerned about his pandering to the religious set with "family values" rhetoric. He's voted for the Patriot Act. And his new "I'm the liberal Reagan" schtick is grandiose and annoying, to say the least of whitewashing the teflon corruption of the 1980s decade with the comparison (yes, I know he was talking policy). He wants to be Kennedy and Reagan. He doesn't want to be Nixon or Clinton. I'm concerned he'll be Carter and Ford.

He talks in generalizations, with very little in terms of real plans. His positions on a number of issues are stealth in nature and I'm concerned that his resistance to being pinned down to specific policy positions will amount to a Clintonian mush which does nobody any good. The "politics of consensus" to me evokes images of a decade ago with a presidency trying to be something for everybody.

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