ballot measures critical

April 23, 2009|By Charles Cooper

The state is facing an estimated $8 billion deficit in the coming year, and will be facing a new series of program cuts. And, if a package of budget reform measures on the May 19 ballot fails — and almost all are behind in the latest polls — the deficit could be much more, according to state Senator Carol Liu of La Cañada Flintridge.

Liu and other Democrats are trying to rally support at the local level for the six propositions, and the task is not a simple one.

“The only one winning right now is 1F, which would limit legislative pay during budget crises,” Liu told the Valley Sun. “That’s getting 80% support.”


Unlike budget issues in the Legislature, the six propositions need a simple majority vote.

Meanwhile, the state is fighting not to run out of money before the end of the fiscal year. “Payments are late, even our salaries,” Liu said.

A much-touted commission to make recommendations for tax reforms has been meeting, but has pushed back the expected report date, Liu said.

The former La Cañada mayor said she and her colleagues must continue to cut, and could decide to go after local funding, ostensibly protected by a ballot measure. Local governments, almost all facing program cuts of their own, will resist any such raids.

Liu has been dealing with budget deficits almost since she entered the Legislature as a member of the state Assembly in 2000. The state’s built-in budget gap, along with the collapse of the economy, has made the situation critical this year and led to continued animosity between the state’s majority and minority parties.

The major issue, Prop 1A, would set up a rainy day reserve fund and budget balancing procedure, but would also continue for at least two years the tax increases adopted this year to resolve the budget crisis. These increases, including sales, vehicle and income tax, will bring in $16 billion over the next two years.

Proponents are hoping the measure’s reserve and budget balancing elements will draw support, and have raised more than $3 million to support its passage. The Howard Jarvis organization and other anti-tax groups charge the budget balancing promises are intended to sugarcoat the continued tax hikes.

Proposition 1B would use some of the projected new state reserve fund to pay back schools for previous cuts under waivers of Prop. 98. Proposition IC would modernize the state lottery system, and allow borrowing of $5 billion from future revenues to balance next year’s budget.

Propositions 1D and 1E would authorize the use of children’s services and mental health funding as a “temporary reallocation” to balance the budget. Prop. 1F would prevent pay increases for elected officials during budget deficit years.

The governor will issue his annual budget revision numbers next month, and the news is not likely to be good. The state will benefit from the federal stimulus, but Liu said the funding is more than $1 billion short of the amount anticipated.

Meanwhile, the entire Assembly and half the Senate will be up for election next year, and a steadily growing list of candidates for governor are considering a run.

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