5:59 PM Eastern - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Point of View: What Prop. 1A really means for California


"I need your help. Here in California there is a ballot initiative called Prop. 1A that would put a cap on what we spend. Supposedly in the good years, extra money would be put in to a 'rainy day' fund. In lean years, I think, money would be pulled back out."

A few days ago, we received a link to a video on Colorado's experience with TABOR, a law that -- like Proposition 1A in the May 19 special election -- put caps on funding for public services, using low-funded crisis years as the baseline. The video, by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, shows how a so-called "Taxpayer Bill Of Rights" ended up costing taxpayers even more than before, while turning Colorado into one of the worst-funded states in the country for health care, education, senior services, and just about everything else.

Well, one of SEIU Local 1021's members in Sonoma County -- an Employment and Training Program Coordinator, Alix Shor -- felt compelled to dig deeper. She wanted to know if the video was true (will Prop. 1A guarantee budget disaster every year?) or just campaign propaganda from her union. So she wrote and asked a lifelong friend now living in Colorado.

"On the other hand, if Prop. 1A doesn't pass, the budget goes back to the Legislature whom I would like to fire every single last one of them for their doing nothing since Prop. 13 passed many years ago and completely ruined the state you and I grew up in. Excuse the rant."

Later, she e-mailed her friends and co-workers her friend's report:

"The video plus Ruth's take on what has happened...leads me to believe that as bad as it is to send the Legislature back to work on the budget, the long term effects of Prop. 1A will be so much worse."
So, thank you, Ruth in Colorado. And Alix, for asking her.

Read Ruth's report after the jump, as well a quick rundown of how Prop. 1A would affect California's budget and fiscal situation if written into the state Constitution.

Dear Alix,

Everything in the video is true and not over stated -- in fact it doesn't begin to cover all the areas affected. My area of concern is social, medical and mental health services, which are so hamstrung and under funded as to be nonexistent. Do people really want to go out into public places where a big slice of humanity isn't vaccinated, treated for TB, etc.?

We used to have a premier university here. Now that university is competing with K-12. There are Denver Metro school districts that are talking about 4-day school weeks: can you imagine what the educational and social costs of that would be? As it is, all of our kids only go to school four and a half days a week and every month has at least one in-service day the kids are off. Working parents, of course, are paying for child care when school is out, about 50 percent of the year. Head Start has been squeezed down to hardly more than an ESL program -- necessary but way too limited. Everybody loses.

Public safety is another huge arena of concern. It's been a dry year and we've already had a couple of big fires in the foothills. The budget is going to be taxed (pun). One bad effect of TABOR as I understand it is that in low revenue years budgets have to be cut, but when revenues rise again the controlled percentage increases in budgets begin at the level of the cut budgets, so it is always one-step-forward-two steps back. [Prop. 1A uses the same formula.]

I don't understand people who don't realize that undelivered gov't services cost them way more than their measly taxes would ever have been. Between California and Colorado I can pretty well document that our decimated physical and social infrastructure has cost me close to a quarter of a million dollars in the last ten years. "So rant on, lady! I'm on your side.

The new rules under Prop. 1A would require massive savings even in bad years and would greatly reduce the funding available for public services. For example, according to the Department of Finance's projections, if Prop. 1A had been in place already, in 2008-09, the amount of money available for spending would have been $12 billion below the actual budgeted expenditures - which already included cuts of over $10 billion. That means that Prop. 1A would have put the state of California $22 billion below what they needed to sustain services at the workload level.

In recent weeks, SEIU, the California Federation of Teachers and the California Faculty Association have formed a committee that has raised $1 million to oppose Proposition 1A. Because while it's certainly true that California faces another difficult budget, Prop. 1A won't reduce the looming deficit for the 2009-10 budget by a single measly cent. Most of its provisions will not take effect for two years--two years that should be spent hammering out real solutions to the state's budget and fiscal challenges. (Sidenote: SEIU supports Prop 1C, which will bring in an additional $5 billion in revenue by modernizing the lottery.)

Vote NO on Prop. 1A. Watch the video and read SEIU's endorsements at www.1021votes.org. SEIU's May 19th special election endorsement piece here.

>> SEIU 1021 Newswire here.

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