by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado

We’ve seen this before. California ballots are notorious for them. I’m referring to propositions with misleading titles and verbiage that deceive voters and may in fact result in something quite the opposite from what the voter is led to believe. I wrote in this space recently that such deceptively-worded propositions deserve to be defeated regardless of their merits.

California’s Proposition 25 is, in my view, an example of a proposition that deserves to be defeated both on its merits and on the basis of the deceptive language associated with it. Prop. 25 would change the legislative vote requirement to pass a state budget and budget-related legislation (italics mine), from a super majority of two-thirds to just a simple majority. It would also provide for the permanent forfeiture of the daily salary and expenses of legislators until the budget bill passes.

Californians are understandably frustrated by seemingly endless delays in getting a state budget passed. This proposition, if passed, will make it easier, of course, to pass a budget on time. The party that controls the legislature will usually have enough votes to pass the budget if all that is required is a simple majority. But that makes it too easy to pass an irresponsible budget based upon unrealistic revenue estimates and loaded with spending we can’t afford, over the valid objections of the opposition party. Proposed tax increases already require a super majority of two-thirds to pass and rightly so. Increasing the tax burden on citizens should require more than a bare simple majority. Supporters of tax increases should have to work harder to obtain those extra votes before increasing everyone’s taxes. And legislators should have to work just as hard to pass a budget that will profoundly affect California citizens and businesses.

Supporters of Prop. 25 claim that, in a democracy, the majority should rule. There is, however, such a thing as the tyranny of the majority. There are, therefore, many examples in our democracy where super majorities of two-thirds or three-fourths or even unanimous votes are required.

Prop. 25, if it passes, would make it easier to for Sacramento politicians to raise our taxes. It would also permit the passage by simple majority of budget-related legislation. This is a prescription for legislative mischief and will almost certainly result in higher spending and taxes. Voters should be wary of any legislation which makes it easier for politicians to spend money.

Supporters of Prop. 25 have sweetened this proposition by a provision that permanently forfeits the daily salaries and expenses of legislators for each day that the budget is delayed. This provision appeals to popular sentiment and anger with politicians over budget delays but there is little likelihood of it ever happening since the party controlling the legislature should have little trouble getting just over 50% of the votes to pass a budget. Californians, however, may not be very happy with the budget that emerges from this simplified process.

All Californians want budgets to be passed on time. They are understandably weary of political deadlock in Sacramento as well as in Washington. But polls are showing consistently that what voters want most of all are balanced budgets that are fiscally responsible, not budgets that are balanced by smoke and mirrors. A two-thirds super majority vote requirement to pass a budget as well as new taxes is a needed protection for California taxpayers, already among the most highly taxed in the nation. If Prop. passes, they will be denied that extra protection.

It is always instructive to find out who are the supporters and advocates of each proposition on the ballot. Prominent among Prop. 25 supporters are public employee unions whose benefits account for much of California’s spending. Gee, what a surprise!

Don’t be fooled by Prop. 25’s promises. It’s not really about holding Sacramento legislators responsible. It’s about making it easier for them to spend your money.

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copyright 2010 J.F. Kelly, Jr

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

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