Thursday, November 4, 2010

Simple Majority

This year two seemingly contradictory ballot measures passed in California. One requires the state legislature to get a 2/3rds majority to increase fees as well as taxes. The other lowers the requirement to pass a budget from 2/3 to 1/2.

At first I thought this was silly. Make it easier to balance a budget, but make it harder to do anything that actually would balance the budget? Then I thought about it. This is brilliant!

You see, now it only takes a majority to kill a program but it takes a super-majority to raise taxes. This means that the easier way to balance the budget is to cut spending! I am not aware of any other body of government that was designed this way, but I am at least hopeful for this one. A shame the ballot measures have tied the hands of the legislature so much that the budget will always be a mess, but a half dozen or so ballot measures such as prop 215 have justified the entire program. If there was just the requirement that all ballot measures be budget neutral, or make money for the state, than it probably wouldn't be an issue.

The state of California collects more taxes today than it did a decade ago. However I don't really see a sign they have done much of use with this additional money. Most of it seems to have gone to increasing the scope of our prisons, in large part because of the war on drugs. Or it has gone to healthcare, which in large part is just paying more money for the same services we got before, although some is real innovative but expensive programs.

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