- Written by Ken Alpern
05 Oct 2012
POLITICS - As usual, the Los Angeles Times editorial board calls for more money to Sacramento for education and just about everything else…and as usual, when it comes to raising taxes for education, the Los Angeles Times is wrong in supporting Proposition 30 and opposing Proposition 38.
The refrain of the Times editorial board is the same as it has been on numerous occasions (and it is not without merit altogether, despite its continuing failure to recognize the pulse and intelligence of the taxpaying public): Sacramento needs cleaning up, but we need money NOW to survive and to continue ongoing and necessary state functions.
To some degree, this argument by the Times editorial board is entirely true—but this argument also ignores the unintended consequences of enabling a state government that is overdue for reform by some 15 years. As evidenced by the failures of the Schwarzeneggar Administration to reign in the public sector unions and other lobbying interests in Sacramento and by the current failure of Governor Brown to achieve sufficient budgetary reform, this can’t be underscored.
So why Proposition 38 (the Munger Initiative) over Proposition 30 (the Brown Initiative)? Let me count the ways:
#1: The Munger bypasses Sacramento, and places education funding more in the hands of voters:
While I personally trust Governor Brown to fight for the right causes, and compromise whenever he can, it’s very hard to trust a Sacramento Legislature that is unrepresentative of both ordinary Democrats and Republicans. While our new “top two” approach to electing state officials is more likely to produce representatives with heart, brains and communicative abilities, that process isn’t finished yet.
We cannot trust the Legislature to ensure that Proposition 30 tax revenues will go to education, and we can probably trust both the Legislature (who is as devious as any in recent memory) and the Governor (who is not a tyrant, and who is willing to make tough decisions but must therefore work with and compromise with both misbehaving public sector unions and the Legislature) to move this money around wherever they see fit.
Proposition 38 has all the money go to the classroom, and virtually bars the Legislature from using the money to benefit pensions, salaries and administrative nonsense. It’s certain that the Legislature would try to backhoe and shift other educational budgetary funds to non-educational purposes, but Proposition 38 is the best way to guarantee that our constitutional requirement of 40% of state budgetary spending to public education will be met.
#2: Consider the source:
Proposition 30 comes from a compromise between the Legislature, the public sector unions and the Governor, and passed with little to no bipartisan support. Proposition 38 was written by educational advocates who are outside the unions, lobbyists and other Sacramento power brokers, and keeps them out of the decision-making process on spending the money, which will be mandated to go to the classroom and be controlled by the voters.
#3: See #2—Do we really need to debate this anymore?
#4: Other Sacramento budgetary priorities must be fixed before we can throw more unspecified dollars, but at least this ensures our children their fair share of tax funds:
Everything from pension reform, welfare reform, immigration policies, healthcare reform and tax reform has been embarked on by the Governor, with the Legislature dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way. While the Republican minority in the Legislature is excoriated for being “non-compromising”, it’s hard to escape the fact that on numerous occasions the Republicans are guilty not of being wrong on the facts, but unable to articulate their message to the public.
The fact remains that Governor Brown is doing much of what his predecessor Governor Schwarzeneggar tried to do—reform Sacramento’s inherent budgetary deficiencies. Schwarzeneggar was thoroughly defeated by the public sector unions early in his first term, and left the taxpayers without a champion of reform while caving in to the special interests and became an ultimate insider.
Brown is doing his best—in large part because he’s a Democrat and has better credibility than Schwarzeneggar and his meandering, gimmicking ways—but it’s obvious that the rest of Sacramento isn’t where he’s at yet. Clearly some more painful, painful time for change is needed for the Legislature and the public sector unions (who keep forgetting who works for whom) to “get it” that the taxpaying public isn’t buying what they’re selling.
Reforms at the college/tuition level, welfare level, prison level, health care level, and a host of other reforms are all in order. Certainly K-12 education reform is vital—and the Legislature still has opted to prevent appropriate and timely firing of teachers guilty of sex crime offenses—but at least we can fund schools without the ability of Sacramento to screw that up, and can make it clear to them that they’re not even close to being done on fixing the problems in our state.
#5: With Proposition 38, virtually everyone pays, and everyone therefore has a stake in the education of our children:
Both Propositions 30 and 38 will result in the rich paying more to help education, but as the rich flee California to other states (or even other nations), there are fewer and fewer individuals expected to pay more and more to balance our state budget. The increasingly hostile and regulation-laden environment of California to employers is exacerbating this trend, and we will need to ask more from lower-income earners because there are more of them, and taxing only a few will result in insufficient revenues and without resolution to the funding problems of our state budgetary priorities.
The Munger initiative, Proposition 38, has a sliding scale of income taxes from individuals who make as little as $7,316 a year, but the sales taxes of Proposition 39 would arguably affect poorer individuals even more. Like it or not, incomes of the wealthy fluctuate wildly from year to year and can result in both delightful budgetary booms and horrifying budgetary busts.
Asking everyone to pay not only unites us as a state, but opens the hearts and wallets of wealthier taxpayers who already feel besieged (contrary to popular opinion, they’re not zombies or devils, but worked 80+ hours a week for decades to make their money, to say nothing of the incredible financial risk they placed in their investing). We’ve got to show each other, and the rest of the nation, that we ALL put forth our money and resources to help our children.
There are many (and I’m not entirely disagreeing with them) that believe that neither Proposition 30 nor Proposition 38 should pass—we’re just too tapped out. But the threat of cutting our school year by three weeks is the threat that bothers Californians the most (and as a father of two beloved school-age children, I can relate to that threat), and Proposition 38 resolves that threat while holding Sacramento’s feet to the fire and making them confront the need for countless reforms.
Yes on Children, No on Sacramento. Yes on Proposition 38, No on Proposition 30.
Vol 10 Issue 80
Pub: Oct 5, 2012