Special Little Election
Budget is defined as a statement of an organization's financial position for a definite period of time based on cost estimates, or is a plan coordinating resources. Incidently, crisis is defined as an unstable, critical situation where changes are immediately called for. As many of you may know, we are experiencing extreme budget trouble across the nation, especially in state governments. Tuesday, May 19, the citizens of California (my home state) voted on Propositions 1A through 1F, a series of emergency initiatives written in an attempt to rescue our state's budget. Before I give you the results, let me give you a little history.
The state has had a history of poorly planned budgets which tended to get worse year after year. Unfortunately, California has also had problems with passing budgets on time. However, this particular crisis stems largely from the budget passed in late 2008. Recently, many changes have been made in an attempt to solve California's budget woes. Deep cuts have been administered to the already under-funded education system, spending is virtually frozen, and on December 19, Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger ordered certain state employees to take certain days off and drastically cut down the number of state jobs. In order to correct the grievous mistakes made in the last budget, this special election was also called.
And now, the propositions:
Proposition 1A: Changing the California budget process and increasing the money sent to the "Rainy Day" fund.
- increases "Rainy Day" fund from 5% to 12.5% of the General Fund
- portion of fund to be used in future downturns; rest for education, infrastructure, alleviating debt, and emergencies
The "Rainy Day" fund is basically a pool of money which the State sets aside for future use (saving money for a rainy day). The State hopes to have a plan in place for future economic crises and plans to try and keep the State's affairs (education, infrastructure, etc.) up and running.
FAIL: 34.3% Yes, 65.7% No
The voters didn't buy it. Stashing money away for future use wasn't really the solution we were looking for. There were also several things wrong with how the legislation was written. The most important problem is simply that it is never stated just how much of the fund will be set aside for future economic crises. Also, the fact that the State is preparing for more problems down the road isn't all that comforting.
Proposition 1B: Funding education and implementing a payment plan.
- requires annual payments to school districts/community colleges to offset budget cuts starting in 2011-2012
- payments funded by Budget Stabilization Fund
- funds sent to school districts will be determined by daily attendance; money can be spend on textbooks, classroom implements, and programs
California schools have been hit very hard by the financial crisis. By sending school districts money annual, the State hopes to make up for the thousands of dollars in cuts made by the districts in their attempts to stay up and running. This money can then be used to improve the quality of education. The legislation is supposed to save billions of dollars down the road.
FAIL: 37.7% Yes, 62.3% No
Indeed, our schools have been hit very hard by the economic downturn; district spending was even frozen in my district in an attempt to save money. However, dishing out more money was not something that he voters were very willing to do. Sending money to schools for designated things was not a very welcoming prospect. That, and the idea that spending money on our schools will save us billions down the road; apparently that made as little sense to the rest of California as it did to me.
Proposition 1C: Improving the lottery.
- modernizing the lottery with better payoffs, improving marketing and management
- requiring the State to own the lottery + accountability measures
- protect current school funding
- increased lottery revenue would alleviate the budget deficit
The State hopes to make the lottery a more inviting prospect for California's citizens. By updating their marketing strategies, the State hopes it will draw in more customers, which will generate more state revenue. This revenue can then be used to get rid of the State's debts. Much of the money currently generated by the lottery goes to education, and the State is trying to protect this.
FAIL: 35.5% Yes, 64.5% No
This was really a long-shot for the State. The thing they neglected to realize was the fact that almost everyone in their state was trying their best to save their money and only spend on necessities. The State was basically asking these same people to spend more of their precious money on the lottery; they kindly said no.
Proposition 1D: Redirecting funds to children's services and balancing the State's budget.
- provides upwards of $600 million for children's programs
- sends tobacco tax money to children's health and human services (services for at-risk families, children with disabilities, and foster children)
- pre-existing funds temporarily redirected toward programs from children under five
- helps balance state budget
The State is looking out for its disadvantaged children in these tough times; with the passing if Proposition 1D, the State will be able to send millions of dollars to children's programs to continue to provide a good upbringing for all children. The bill will also balance the budget.
FAIL: 34.1% Yes, 65.9% No
It is true, children are the future. Unfortunately, children's programs are expensive. Though it may sound good to be sending more that $600 million dollars to children's services, it's not exactly frugal spending, which is what most Californians are looking for. Another problems was that the State point-blank refused to explain just how this proposition would actually balance the budget. Considering that was one of the main selling points, it would seem pretty important to explain how that actually worked.
Proposition 1E: Redirecting the mental health funds from Proposition 63 (2004) and balancing the budget.
- for two years, moves funds from mental health programs outlined in Proposition 63 to mental health programs for children and young adults
- provides +$225 million in flexible funds
- balances the budget
This proposition is designed to send money from the programs created by 2004's Proposition 63 to pre-existing state programs, saving approximately $230 million annually for the next two years.
FAIL: 33.6% Yes, 66.4% No
Considering that Proposition 1D was already intended to send millions to children's programs, it didn't really seem necessary to send even more money to children' programs, specifically children's mental health programs. Indeed, mental health is really quite important, something which I myself have discovered. However, with the current shabby state of our economy, there is only so much money we can send to mental health programs. The one thing I will say in favor of this proposition is that it's method for saving money seemed much more sound than Proposition 1D's.
Proposition 1F: Preventing pay increases for State employees during the budget crisis.
- preventing government employees (even the Governor) from getting pay raises when the State is in a deficit
- the Director of Finance determines if a year is a deficit year
- Citizen's Compensation Commission prevented from raising elected officials' salaries if Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties is behind by more than one percent of the General Fund
This fund makes it much harder for elected State employees to get pay raises when the State experiences budget deficits. It almost provides an incentive for officials to keep the budget balanced and not in the negative, for they can then make more money. If the Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties is in debt more than one percent of the General Fund, elected officials are designated not to receive pay raises.
PASS: 74% Yes, 26% No
This nice piece of algebra passed; it was the one and only proposition of the six which passed. In a way, it was the voters of California's way of reprimanding the officials they elected for getting them into this mess. Even though this proposition will have a limited effect on the amount of money saved in the State budget, it is still a way for the voters to see something being done to help get the State back on a more honest, productive track.
Those are the final results of California's Special little Election. Out of all six propositions, only Proposition 1F passed, which prevented elected officials from getting pay raises when there is a deficit. Now, we citizens of California must wait and see just how this change will affect us in years to come. Of course, our troubles are far from over.
The State is considering holding a Constitutional Convention to change the way the state is run, for right now it is virtually ungovernable. And indeed, our state is not the only state in turmoil. The entire country is in deep trouble, and we can only hope the right changes in regulations are made.