New Budget Essay One: the “Meaning” of the Prop 1A Vote

This is a guest post from former State Senator Sheila Kuehl.  This is a more accurate analysis of the real reasons the initiatives failed than the spin you are probably hearing on the radio or word-of-mouth.  As we discussed the other day, polls show a number fo reasons the voters rejected the proposals, few of them related to taxes.

The Problem With the Rhetoric

after the election, the Governor announced that the “voters had spoken”
and that the defeat of Prop 1A “clearly” meant that Californians stood
adamantly against any new taxes or fees.  He must have been reading the
leaves in the bottom of his tea cup in order to come to a favored
conclusion, however, because there was no evidence to support his
assertion.  Quite the opposite, as a poll taken between May 16 and May
20 showed.  (see below)

The Governor didn’t stop there. 
Building on his unsubstantiated assertion, he went on to maintain, that
he, therefore, had no choice but to propose a budget that would put the
wrecking ball to California’s safety net for healthcare, children, the
elderly and schools.  As shown below, his conclusion as to the meaning
of the “No” vote on Prop 1A is not true, and, therefore, these proposed
cuts, and a budget with no new revenues, is not the most acceptable
answer for California’s voters.

What Would Prop 1A Have Done Again?

voters indicated they were confused by Prop 1A and with some good
reason.  Like every one of the Propositions on the May 19th ballot,
Prop 1A was originally constructed to satisfy Republican demands in
exchange for a minimal number of “aye” votes on the February budget. 
As such, Prop 1A would have placed a spending cap on future budget
expenditures.  Then, in order to placate Democrats who did not agree
with the spending cap as drafted, an extension to the new sales tax was
added to the Proposition, giving virtually everyone something to hate.
An Interesting Irony

seems sadly ironic that, just as the rest of the United States is
rejecting the right wing’s long stranglehold on our rhetoric,
California, the long hold-out, is embracing it.  Years ago, Grover
Nordquist, one of the right’s mouthpieces, said that his goal was to
shrink government down to where it could be drowned in a bathtub.  By
patiently denigrating government, valorizing private enterprise,
establishing inflexible term limits to guarantee an inexperienced
legislature, setting up a 2/3 vote requirement to raise a tax, but only
a majority to lower one, government in California was set up for the

But California proved stubborn.  Support of schools
and the safety net continued.  Since, by definition, these are jobs
only the government can perform, government continued to be an
important part of all solutions to poverty, education and healthcare. 

now.  This month, even our moderate Republican Governor, along with a
seemingly cowed Democratic majority in both houses, contemplates
throwing in the towel and balancing the budget with nothing but cuts,
cuts, cuts, thus fulfilling Grover Nordquist’s desire. 

the call for these cuts is predicated on misreading the tea leaves of
the defeat of Prop 1A, in an election in which only 23% of registered
voters voted (4 million out of 17.1 million, or about 10.5% of

What Did The Voters (and the Non-Voters) “mean” by the Defeat of Prop 1A

only real information we have about voters’ intentions is a poll
conducted between May 16th and May 20th of 603 people who voted in the
election and 405 who did not.  According to several sections of the

1) 3 out of 4 voters and non-voters simply thought these propositions should never have been put to them for a vote.
7 out of 10 did not like that the Governor and the Legislature keep
balancing the budget “on the backs of average Californians” instead of
requiring special interests to pay their fair share.  Only 20% thought
all Californians were being asked to share the pain equally.

How About the “No on 1A” voters specifically?

is the result that puts the lie to the Governor’s interpretation.  Of
voters who voted “no” on Prop 1A, less than half said the government
should rely entirely on spending cuts and not increase taxes.

of all voters agreed that shared responsibility should be part of the
solution and not simply reliance on spending cuts to balance the budget.

Do “No” Voters on Prop 1A Support Any Taxes?

to the poll, 62% of “no” voters supported increased taxes on alcohol
(75% of “yes” and “no” combined supported this tax), 62% supported
increased taxes on tobacco (74% of all voters), 60% supported an oil
extraction tax on oil companies drawing oil and gas in California (73%
of all voters), 58% supported not allowing corporations buying property
to be protected by Prop 13 (63% of all voters), 55% supported not
allowing tax credits for companies to go over 50% of what they owe in
taxes (59% of all voters).

Conclusion:  Voters Would Support a Balanced Approach

so, the budget will have to incorporate deep cuts no matter what the
solution.  The only question is how much, and whether some of the cuts
can be made less deeply because revenue solutions are part of the

Next:  A Possible, Though Still Painful, Way to Balance the Budget

4 thoughts on “New Budget Essay One: the “Meaning” of the Prop 1A Vote

  1. Prop 1A was a vote against continuing the taxes for an additionally two years. We already have the taxes in place. The vote on 1A did nothing to affect the budget. its just a message that the State Government has to do something between now and 2011 to balance the budget.
    NO NEW TAXES where proposed with 1A.
    I too would support a balanced approach. I’m for the Oil Severance Tax. Regardless anything you do that isn’t an Income Tax or Sales Tax just isn’t big enough to affect the the budget deficient. Thats the problem. I just don’t see where the State is lowing any spending. Revenue is slashed. Which means everyone that isn’t a government worker is hurting. Why should the government not cut wages.

  2. What the polling of the ‘No on 1A’ voters is clearly telling us, is that California voters are not Grover Nordquist government killbots, but rather a group of rational citizens who understand that there are vital services only government can perform, and that those services need to be funded, either through tax revenues or by going deeper into debt to foriegn governments and banking cartels, etc.
    The other message I believe that the voters delivered to Sacramento was this; “We elected YOU to represent US, by studying the emergencies & issues facing our state, and to draft and vote for responsible legislation, not to allow special interest groups to draft initiatives, fill our shopping centers with signature-gatherers, and then to fill our airwaves & ballots with confusing propositions, asking the under-informed public to play Legislator every election cycle.
    I applaud all Californians who voted down these ‘voter empowerment’ scams, by voting NO on YES!(and YES on NO!).
    Once we elect you, it’s YOUR JOB to do the voting for us!

  3. THEY MESSED UP!!!!!
    Even a fiscal conservative like me would have voted for most of 1C-1F. But the audacity of asking for “future” tax money made the public mad. since 1A was only an extension, they should have left it off the ballot.

  4. Instead of featuring soundbites of the Governator saying, “The people have spoken. No new taxes!”, local news should have featured these poll results! I was beginning to think I was among a minority who felt this way.
    As we sit with baited breath, it’s small consolation that I’m not.

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