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You know how when pollsters are trying to figure out if you’re a regular voter, they ask, “did something come up that prevented you from voting on the last election day?” You know what’s going to prevent me from voting next Tuesday, May 19? IRRITATION. These propositions are maddening, poorly drafted, and no matter which side wins, we all lose.

So the main issue here is that the California state budget sucks. We don’t have enough money coming in, and even if we did have enough money coming in, there are enough Republicans in the California Legislature that they can hold the budget hostage until they get what they want. There are two obvious solutions, but they’re not going to happen: 1) raise taxes so we have enough money for everyone, or 2) stop voting Republican. Obviously neither of those are going to happen. So what do we get instead? Weird insufficient ballot measures from the governor, which have to pass or we’ll have to make drastic statewide service cuts starting immediately. Great!

We’re all kind of over a barrel about the budget. The Chron is begging for an all yes vote, because the state needs the money to run, and the Bay Guardian is defiantly endorsing all no and rolling the dice that the state doesn’t go bankrupt in the process.

So what do these ballot measures call for?:

1A: Requires the state to save a certain amount of money every year in a rainy-day fund, and in exchanges frees up some cash for immediate needs. Pros: We’d have some money saved for years when tax revenues are down, like this one. Plus — we need the cash now. Cons: There already isn’t enough money in the budget for the stuff we have to pay for, and this would just cut that amount of money more. You can think of these initiatives as equivalent to one of those loan shark payday advance loans — do you need the money that bad? You know, you might.

1B: Gives the schools more money. Pros: The schools could use more money, for sure. Cons: This only passes if 1A passes and everyone hates 1A. Feinstein and Boxer are both reluctantly backing 1A and 1B, for what it’s worth.

1C: Borrow money from the lottery for the budget. Pros: There’s zillions of dollars in the lottery budget! Cons: ….that they get by stealing from poor people! (also, there’s not actually that much money.)

1D: Take money from kids over 5 to pay for kids under 5. Pros: Kids under 5 need money. Cons: So do kids over 5.

1E: Earmarks money to go to mental health programs. Pros: Mental health programs need money. Cons: Doesn’t anything in California need that money more?

1F: No pay raises for legislatures in bad budget years. Pros: The legislature sucks.. Cons: This is not enough money to solve the problem. Of course, this is the only proposition that’s leading in the polls.

Basically, the problem in California is that we do not have enough money to pay for state services, and our process for approving a budget is a joke. These initiatives aren’t going to solve those problems one way or the other. Good thing, since with the 2/3rd majority required to pass these bills, unless something drastically changes by next Tuesday, there’s almost no way they’re going to pass.

Let me know if I’ve missed some nuance in the situation, or if you’ve got other thoughts on the propositions in the comments: the hallmark of this column is the quick, dirty, and lazy overview of the ballot measures that people have spent millions to try and educate you about!

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  • Jamie Whitaker

    I smell a Constitution Convention for California coming soon … hopefully before the state goes bankrupt. They should have put Proposition 1F as 1A .. the feel good measure … and then if sticking it to the legislators by voting YES felt good, you might be compelled to keep voting YES on down the line. But, they put the most confusing ballot proposition first … making it VERY easy for folks to vote NO all the way down … except 1F, the cynics item.

  • Jamie Whitaker

    I smell a Constitution Convention for California coming soon … hopefully before the state goes bankrupt. They should have put Proposition 1F as 1A .. the feel good measure … and then if sticking it to the legislators by voting YES felt good, you might be compelled to keep voting YES on down the line. But, they put the most confusing ballot proposition first … making it VERY easy for folks to vote NO all the way down … except 1F, the cynics item.

  • Paul Hogarth

    Rita, let me begin by saying how much I love you … and how this article made me laugh out loud, because you are truly the most hilarious political writer in San Francisco.

    But seriously … there’s a lot of stuff you got WAY OFF BASE …

    PROP 1A: The formula for taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund during hard times is incredibly complicated, and nobody on this planet understands it. So we’ll be putting up to 12% of the budget aside each year, when we’re not sure if it will be seen again. Oh, and Prop 1A lets Arnold make unilateral budget cuts at any time he damn well pleases.

    PROP 1E: You pretty much described it as the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what it is. Prop 1E actually *takes away* money for mental health funding, and throws it back into the General Fund. I believe it’s criminal, because it effectively makes what Arnold has been trying to do for the last five years — which was illegal — perfectly legal. The voters passed Prop 63 in 2004 to get new mental health funding, with the explicit mandate that it be spent on NEW programs, and nothing else. Arnold already got sued, and busted for trying to steal the money away before … Prop 1E would make that shoplifting legal.

  • Paul Hogarth

    Rita, let me begin by saying how much I love you … and how this article made me laugh out loud, because you are truly the most hilarious political writer in San Francisco.

    But seriously … there’s a lot of stuff you got WAY OFF BASE …

    PROP 1A: The formula for taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund during hard times is incredibly complicated, and nobody on this planet understands it. So we’ll be putting up to 12% of the budget aside each year, when we’re not sure if it will be seen again. Oh, and Prop 1A lets Arnold make unilateral budget cuts at any time he damn well pleases.

    PROP 1E: You pretty much described it as the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what it is. Prop 1E actually *takes away* money for mental health funding, and throws it back into the General Fund. I believe it’s criminal, because it effectively makes what Arnold has been trying to do for the last five years — which was illegal — perfectly legal. The voters passed Prop 63 in 2004 to get new mental health funding, with the explicit mandate that it be spent on NEW programs, and nothing else. Arnold already got sued, and busted for trying to steal the money away before … Prop 1E would make that shoplifting legal.

  • Paul Hogarth

    Oh, and your description of PROP 1D (“Take money from kids over 5 to pay for kids under 5”) is actually the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Prop 1D really does. It actually steals money from kids under 5, to kids over 5. It would be like your big brother stealing your money — if children under 5 even had money … Or maybe it’s stealing their teddy bear.

    Like I said, I still love you Rita … you just got a few facts wrong, but know more about these Propositions than 99.9999999999999999% of California.

  • Paul Hogarth

    Oh, and your description of PROP 1D (“Take money from kids over 5 to pay for kids under 5”) is actually the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Prop 1D really does. It actually steals money from kids under 5, to kids over 5. It would be like your big brother stealing your money — if children under 5 even had money … Or maybe it’s stealing their teddy bear.

    Like I said, I still love you Rita … you just got a few facts wrong, but know more about these Propositions than 99.9999999999999999% of California.

  • Brock Keeling

    Brilliantly and expertly done, Rita. As always. You’re the only political writer in SF who lacks self-interest and can help me make sense of what’s going on.

    Brava.

  • Brock Keeling

    Brilliantly and expertly done, Rita. As always. You’re the only political writer in SF who lacks self-interest and can help me make sense of what’s going on.

    Brava.

  • Rita

    well, hello, Paul! You are always so kind! So…. okay, maybe I’m dense, but are you sure about those?

    For 1A, sure, I agree, the dividing up of the money is screwy, I’m not even touching that. But basically, it puts a certain amount of money in a lockbox like a rainy-day fund, and in exchange, frees up a certain amount of money to balance this year’s budget. I think we agree on that.

    For 1D, though, the bill says it will redirect money from early education funds (which I’m calling “kids over 5” for pithiness) to fund health and human services for children 5 years old and younger. Am I missing something there?

    And for 1E, the bill says it’ll move money from other areas of the budget to pay for mental health services for young adults and children. Maybe the confusion we’re having that some of the money they’re moving is from mental health services for older people to fund mental health services for kids? Or am I missing something in the actual text of the bill? (I’m working off the summaries of the bill, because I’m too lazy to wade through the actual legislative text).

    Anyways, help me out here! I’m always trying to learn!

  • Rita

    well, hello, Paul! You are always so kind! So…. okay, maybe I’m dense, but are you sure about those?

    For 1A, sure, I agree, the dividing up of the money is screwy, I’m not even touching that. But basically, it puts a certain amount of money in a lockbox like a rainy-day fund, and in exchange, frees up a certain amount of money to balance this year’s budget. I think we agree on that.

    For 1D, though, the bill says it will redirect money from early education funds (which I’m calling “kids over 5” for pithiness) to fund health and human services for children 5 years old and younger. Am I missing something there?

    And for 1E, the bill says it’ll move money from other areas of the budget to pay for mental health services for young adults and children. Maybe the confusion we’re having that some of the money they’re moving is from mental health services for older people to fund mental health services for kids? Or am I missing something in the actual text of the bill? (I’m working off the summaries of the bill, because I’m too lazy to wade through the actual legislative text).

    Anyways, help me out here! I’m always trying to learn!

  • Paul Hogarth

    In 1998, voters passed a cigarette tax (Prop 10) to fund the “First Five” program. While taking money out of that program and re-directing it to the General Fund (which is what Prop 1D would do) could theoretically go to health programs for OTHER children, it’s still robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    In 2004, voters passed an income tax on millionaires (Prop 63) to fund mental health programs. The mandate was that it be “new” programs, and the state could not just cut mental health programs elsewhere — and then use Prop 63 money to “substitute” for mental health. Which is exactly what Arnold tried to do in 2007, but got spanked for it because it was illegal. Again, Prop 1E could re-direct Prop 63 money to fund existing mental health programs — but it’s still robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  • Paul Hogarth

    In 1998, voters passed a cigarette tax (Prop 10) to fund the “First Five” program. While taking money out of that program and re-directing it to the General Fund (which is what Prop 1D would do) could theoretically go to health programs for OTHER children, it’s still robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    In 2004, voters passed an income tax on millionaires (Prop 63) to fund mental health programs. The mandate was that it be “new” programs, and the state could not just cut mental health programs elsewhere — and then use Prop 63 money to “substitute” for mental health. Which is exactly what Arnold tried to do in 2007, but got spanked for it because it was illegal. Again, Prop 1E could re-direct Prop 63 money to fund existing mental health programs — but it’s still robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  • ////

    Rita, Paul pretty much has it right — the bullet points in the Voter Information Guide are kindasorta misleading at best. Both 1D and 1E take money out of special pools we’ve voted on in the past. See the Legislative Analyst’s bullet points under each prop and you’ll see the phrase “corresponding reduction(s) in funding.” Bingo. And now the shameless plug: For more on the ballot propositions, including recommendations, read Mad Props at mahnamahna.net each election. 🙂

  • ////

    Rita, Paul pretty much has it right — the bullet points in the Voter Information Guide are kindasorta misleading at best. Both 1D and 1E take money out of special pools we’ve voted on in the past. See the Legislative Analyst’s bullet points under each prop and you’ll see the phrase “corresponding reduction(s) in funding.” Bingo. And now the shameless plug: For more on the ballot propositions, including recommendations, read Mad Props at mahnamahna.net each election. 🙂

  • Jeremy_ofSF

    Weird, I tried to post this comment yesterday afternoon, but apparently no luck . . . . These propositions are so friggin shady.

    1A has nothing to do with this year’s budget. The Legislative Analyst says, “Although Proposition 1A was passed as part of the package to balance the 200910 budget, it would not significantly affect this years budget.”

    Paul and //// are right: 1D and 1E are shell games. 1D takes money from First Five and uses it to pay for another child health services program. That frees up money from the general fund to be used for other stuff. The net result is less money for children’s services, but the deceptive ballot language says it’s more money for kids. Shady!

    1E does the same type of thing. It takes money from the Prop 63 fund and uses it to pay for a federally mandated mental health screening program that we would have to pay for anyway out of the general fund.

  • Jeremy_ofSF

    Weird, I tried to post this comment yesterday afternoon, but apparently no luck . . . . These propositions are so friggin shady.

    1A has nothing to do with this year’s budget. The Legislative Analyst says, “Although Proposition 1A was passed as part of the package to balance the 200910 budget, it would not significantly affect this years budget.”

    Paul and //// are right: 1D and 1E are shell games. 1D takes money from First Five and uses it to pay for another child health services program. That frees up money from the general fund to be used for other stuff. The net result is less money for children’s services, but the deceptive ballot language says it’s more money for kids. Shady!

    1E does the same type of thing. It takes money from the Prop 63 fund and uses it to pay for a federally mandated mental health screening program that we would have to pay for anyway out of the general fund.