The Growing Opposition to Prop 31
By Anthony Wright
At Health Access California, we were pleased to see the Sacramento Bee editorialize in opposition to Proposition 31 recently. Health Access California regretfully opposes Prop 31. We know better than most that our budget process and governance structure needs reform, but Prop 31 would in fact make the problems worse.
We've posted on our website our one-pager on why Prop 31 is bad for California's health, and our reasons are similar to the Bee's list:
Prop 31 allows the Governor to make unilateral cuts to any program not in the California Constitution or federal law. This could be without legislative oversight, or even hearings - to hear about the potential impacts and unintended consequences of a Governor's cuts. Voters appropriately rejected this in Proposition 75 in 2005.
Prop 31 also institutes onerous "pay go" rules that would make it significantly harder for the legislature to create new programs to meet the emerging needs of California. Yet the same rules have large exemptions that distort the budget process (exempting existing programs, exempting bonds, exempting programs created by ballot measure) and make it more complicated and confusing for the average Californian. So, in short, the provisions would not achieve the goal of fiscal prudence, but would still make it harder for California to invest in the future.
Additionally, Prop 31 allows local governments to preempt state laws by setting up "Community Strategic Action Plans" that could avoid state standards - whether on health, environment, labor or human services - by showing "substantial compliance" in other ways. Whatever the merits of those alternatives, this would making it much harder for California to achieve key state or national goals.
Finally, Prop 31 would enshrine all of its 8,000+ words (longer than the U.S. Constitution) into the California Constitution - unable to be changed without another vote of the people. Even the unobjectionable parts of Prop 31 (a two year budget cycle, for example) shouldn't be in the Constitution, written in stone for a generation or more.
Health Access has a long and proud history of supporting reforms to the budget process. But we believe Prop 31 would take us in the wrong direction.
Anthony Wright is Executive Director of Health Access California, a statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition of over 200 groups.