The Corner

California Voters Voice Outrage

The results are finalized in California, and taxpayers finally took a stand. Propositions 1A through 1E were soundly defeated last night. Here’s a rundown:

– Proposition 1A would have been the most damaging to taxpayers, as it would extend tax hikes on sales, income, and vehicles for two years, to the tune of $16 billion. It was disguised as a spending cap, but that cap was weak. Voters sniffed out the tax hikes and overwhelmingly opposed them 66-34.

– Proposition 1B didn’t fare much better, as it was rejected by a 62.5 to 37.5 vote. This measure was Gov. Schwarzenegger’s bow to the all-powerful teachers unions. It would have thrown an addition $9.3 billion toward education. It hoped to draw that money from the rainy day fund 1A would have established (so much for a spending cap). Thankfully for taxpayers, both measures were defeated.

– Proposition 1C would have allowed the state to borrow against future lottery revenues, about $5 billion. You have to give state government credit for creativity — they’re tops when it comes to new and innovative budget gimmicks that ignore the reality that they consistently spend outside their means. Voters recognized that Prop 1C ignored this fundamental reality and rejected it 65-35.

– Proposition 1D would have shifted almost $2 billion from the California Children and Families Program into the general fund to close the budget gap. This is more budgetary maneuvering that would have left taxpayers on the hook when the program’s funding was inevitably restored. It lost 66-34.

– Proposition 1E failed by the same 66-34. Like Prop 1D, it would have diverted funds from elsewhere in the budget to shore up general-fund overspending (about $230 million annually from Proposition 63 — a tax on the rich).

– Proposition 1F was the only measure to pass. It imposed a weak limit on pay raises for legislators, theoretically disallowing them during budget deficit years. Regardless of its actual teeth, the results show true populist outrage in California: The measure passed by a resounding 74-26.

While all of this was going on, Schwarzenegger, one of the most disappointing Republican governors of my lifetime, was biding his time in Washington, D.C. He refused to be in the same time zone during the certain bloodbath, and even cast a “last-minute absentee ballot.” He’s back in Sacramento today, holding closed-door meetings with the leadership of both parties on how to fix this mess. That’s the same leadership, mind you, that gave us this massive special-election failure.

Proponents of the measure, backed by teachers unions, spent $30 million to ensure its passage. They outspent those opposed 10 to 1.

California taxpayers did the right thing yesterday. They sent a loud-and-clear message to Schwarzenegger and the legislature. Public hearings on how to fix the budget begin on Thursday. Grab some popcorn — this is going to get very interesting.

– Josh Culling is the state government affairs manager for the National Taxpayers Union.

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