We have all heard the saying, “Do not judge a book by its cover.” An inferior book can be made more saleable by a glitzy and flashy cover, but the contents of the book are none-the-less inferior. On the other hand, some of the classics do not rely on such gimmicks. The author is well known and it is clear that those books will be good literature.
This fall voters are asked to approve a new amendment to the California constitution. While the California Republican Party has endorsed Proposition 31, I cannot in good conscience do the same. While this bill sounds good and there are many good points, I cannot endorse this proposition for three main reasons:
1. This proposition creates more government bureaucracy;
2. This proposition will make it next to impossible for the legislature to ever decrease the size of government; and
3. This proposition will add new rules that will not make our government more transparent.
Proposition 31 promises to: increase public transparency, impose fiscal oversight by putting constraints on any new government spending, increase local control and flexibility, require a two-year state budget instead of the annual budget circus, and require performance reviews of government programs.
There is much more to Proposition 31 then the short statement that appears on your ballot. In fact, Proposition 31 is just shy of 9,000 words long. Any amendment to the California constitution needs to be clear, concise, and limited. We already have one of the longest constitutions in the entire world.
Compare Proposition 31 with the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. These first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution contain less than 500 words. A Constitution is not supposed to be long and verbose; it is designed to set forth the frame work of good government. Proposition 31 is long, verbose, and does not lead to good government.
Bob Balgenorth, former member of the organization that started Proposition 31, says “…it contains serious flaws…and will further harm California.” In his letter of resignation from California Forward, he stated that he was “disappointed that California Forward submitted signatures to the Secretary of State without correcting the flaws in the initiative.” Other sponsoring members have also resigned in protest over the present form of Proposition 31.
As mentioned, there are several problems with Proposition 31. It is poorly written and contains contradictions which will almost certainly lead to confusion and lawsuits rather than reform. The state cannot increase funding unless it raises taxes or cuts some other program—even if monies are available. More alarming, Proposition 31 actually prevents the state from cutting taxes unless it raises taxes in another area. For the last 40 years, politicians have been promising voters to cut the size of government. This proposition will make it practically impossible for a group of politicians from ever fulfilling over 40 years of broken promises to the people.
Proposition 31 adds another layer of government to oversee a government that is supposed to be working. This new layer will add more costs and produce less saving than the proponents will admit. The new regional government will be unelected, and by definition, unaccountable to the voters. Why listen to the voters if you do not have to run for re-election?
Why do we need another set of laws and regulations to ensure that our state legislators and county officials do the right thing in their jobs? Rather than hold these elected officials accountable for good and proper government, it is assumed that if we only make another law, this time our public servants will really serve with integrity and honor. It is a pleasant thought, but new rules will not change the unacceptable way some politicians act. It makes more sense to vote out unresponsive and ethics-breaking politicians and replace them with individuals who will be responsive to the needs of the people rather than the wants of special interest.
Do the good intentions or even some desirable portions of Proposition 31 outweigh the bad results? Absolutely not! It would be another matter if this amendment were a step in the right direction. However, the cost of forfeiting local control of government and transferring it to nameless regional appointees is a giant step backward. A regional redistribution of local taxes and wealth will not keep our local economies growing or solvent. The best form of government is found at the point closest to the people. This is why I strongly support city councils and county commissioners.
Proposition 31 has a nice sound to it but it adds more problems than it solves. This cumbersome set of rules and regulations will make government even less responsive to the needs of citizens due to the inherent ambiguities and accompanying bureaucracy. Proposition 31 is not what California needs.