California’s state budget process is in shambles. Our legislature was more than 100 days late in passing the budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year and, as a result, was forced to take drastic measures to narrow a nearly $19-billion deficit.
The state is already struggling just to find the money to function, and Proposition 22, which would further restrict the state’s ability to handle funds, would only make an efficient budget more difficult to achieve.
In the official summary of the proposition prepared by the attorney general, Proposition 22 “prohibits the state, even during a period of severe fiscal hardship, from delaying the distribution of tax revenues for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services.”
Essentially, the state government would be prohibited from borrowing funds generally allotted for local governments, redevelopment agencies and transportation projects.
With the current budget issues facing California, the state has been borrowing money from transportation funds to use in the state general fund.
Transportation funds are placed in separate accounts than the general fund, and Proposition 22 would restrict the state from shifting money into the general fund.
The state government would no longer be able to borrow or change the distribution of state fuel tax revenues and vehicle license fee revenues, redirect redevelopment agency property taxes to any other local government or temporarily shift property taxes from cities and counties to schools.
Although this might seem like a good idea at first, such a policy would ultimately cripple the state’s ability to provide proper funding for essential services.
According to the official California voter information guide, passing Proposition 22 would reduce resources available for the state general fund by nearly $1 billion in 2010-2011, and a comparable increase in funding would go to state and local transportation programs and local redevelopment.
Proposition 22 is asking us to prioritize where we want our money to go while the state struggles to balance its budget. Passing it would elevate projects such as local construction over public education funding.
Supporters of Proposition 22 say that its passage will aid public services. But that in turn would come at the expense of any of a number of other programs — and our tax dollars should be committed to schools, public safety and health care, not redevelopment agencies and private contractors.
These transportation and redevelopment projects might be important for local government politicians to try to gain favor in their own districts, but restricting access to those funds would leave the state government with even more of a budget problem than it already has.
According to the No on Proposition 22 campaign, if the proposition passes, public schools would lose about $400 million each year. Education funding has already been steadily declining — Proposition 22 would only leave the state with fewer options.
California would have to take actions such as borrowing more from private markets, cutting expenses or raising taxes in order to close the funding gap it would likely face as a result of Proposition 22. Such actions would only leave the state in even more of a predicament than it is in now.
Although it is in no way desirable to have the state government in such a financial pretzel that it is forced to redirect funds and borrow money, desperate times do call for desperate measures. Proposition 22 would tie the state’s hands without addressing the budgetary problems at the root of the crisis.
Eliminating the government’s ability to temporarily divert funds toward the most pressing issues only puts unnecessary restrictions on the actions of the state whenever immediate action needs to be taken.
The state government does not raid the tax dollars of local governments on a consistent basis; it only temporarily moves funds when extra money is needed elsewhere.
Rather than completely prohibiting the state government from taking such action, it would make more sense to place additional regulations on the process.
Proposition 22 would simply leave a government that already has trouble funding its necessities with even less resources to do so.
Jared Servantez is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism.