Friday, April 03, 2009

Analysis of the California Ballot Propositions for May 2009

Generally analysis of ballot propositions is quite simple. Any ballot proposition that advances liberty is supported, any that diminishes it is opposed, and any lateral movement is abstained. But sometimes special circumstances around a ballot proposition can force one to think tactically instead of strategically and take a position outside the normal rule. Some of the ballot propositions are clearly anti-liberty, some have the potential to be mixed, and some of them are lateral movements. Only one of them is good.

Proposition 1A is the worst that will be on the May ballot. If it is approved there will be a budget cap, but there will also be two additional years of higher taxes. The budget cap contains loopholes so that voter approved initiatives could divert money from the “rainy day fund” and any tax increase raises the budget limit. The arguments against were carefully chosen from friendly sources to ensure that they do not mention the extended taxes. If Proposition 1A fails the voters get two years of higher taxes. If Proposition 1A passes the voters get four years of higher taxes. This measure must be opposed.

Proposition 1B is simply additional spending. In the best of times libertarians oppose additional spending, and these are not the best of times. It diverts money from the rainy day fund and gives it to the schools. The catch is that Proposition 1B only passes if Proposition 1A passes, making this a bribe to the teachers to not oppose Proposition 1A. Normally the teacher’s union would oppose even a phony budget cap as offered by Proposition 1A, but if they oppose Proposition 1A they lose proposition 1B. This measure also must be opposed.

Proposition 1C allows the state to sell the proceeds from future lottery earnings. Essentially this allows the state to go into debt by borrowing against the lottery. It is by going into debt that California got into the current mess it is in. It would be simpler to just divert money from the lottery. In some respects this is a lateral move that would simply be ignored, and in some respects this is more debt that should be opposed, but if it is treated as a lateral move this is one of those exceptions about ignoring lateral moves. If this is considered lateral, it should be opposed for the tactical reason of solving the budget crisis on the backs of the taxpayers. This would nullify part of the horrendous budget deal and force the legislators back to work. Whether considered as a diminishing of liberty or a lateral movement, this measure should be opposed.

Propositions 1D and 1E are both clearly lateral movements. They divert money from special funds that libertarians opposed in the first place. Proposition 1D allows the state to divert money from a special children and families fund created in 1998 by raising taxes on cigarettes. Proposition 1E allows the state to divert money from a special mental health fund created in 2004 by raising taxes on millionares. Both of these take special fund monies and put them in the general fund. There may be a libertarian argument in favor of doing that, but because approval of these propositions would facilitate the horrible budget deal they should be opposed.

Proposition 1F is the only good measure on the ballot. It prohibits pay raises for the legislature and they governor if the budget has not passed. This one should be supported.


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