Prop. 31 could change how Calif. spends tax dollars

October 24, 2012 5:19:04 PM PDT
In the upcoming election Californians will be deciding on Proposition 31, which would change how the state can spend your tax dollars.

Sacramento is known for its penchant to spend. Government reformers say Proposition 31 attempts to fix that habit, which they say is out-of-control.

Among the provisions:

- It changes the state budget from an annual plan to a two-year cycle.
- Prohibits any new spending of $25 million dollars or more, unless the tab is offset by an equal amount with new revenues or cuts to other programs.
- Gives the governor more authority to cut the budget in fiscal emergencies when lawmakers don't act.
- Loosens some rules on how local governments can spend state money.

"Proposition 31 recognizes that state government is broken and citizens have lost confidence in their state government," said Bill Hauck with the group California Forward. "This is a modest first step towards restoring confidence that state government knows how to spend taxpayers' money."

The trouble opponents have with this initiative is that it's inflexible. They say it'll be hard to find money for emergencies.

In a state prone to wildfires and earthquakes, spending is not exactly predictable year-to-year. Lawmakers who work on the state budget say they're worried about the complications contained in Prop. 31 and what that might mean when disaster strikes if another layer of bureaucracy is added.

For instance, if CalFire needs $50 million, the state has to find $50 million in cuts or $50 million in new taxes to offset the new expense. And lawmakers tend to have long, drawn out debates over money.

"Imagine this happens and you have to call back the Legislature to have the discussion," said Assembly Budget Chairman Bob Blumenfield. "When there's an emergency, we need to just act as a state and help people and work on recovery and work on rescue."

The impact of Prop. 31 is unpredictable because many provisions are untested. But if approved, the changes are considered Constitutional Amendments and will be difficult to alter later.


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