Proposition 31, the “Government Performance and Accountability Act,” would make sweeping changes to the state budget and tax structure, including:
- Requiring the state to pass a budget every two years, instead of annually.
- Prohibits the legislature from voting on a bill until its text has been public for at least three days.
- Prohibits the Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified. These expenditures could be either new programs or tax cuts.
- Permits the Governor to cut budget unilaterally during declared fiscal emergencies if Legislature fails to act. It also permits the governor a “line-item” veto, wherein he/she can eliminate one or more appropriation items while keeping others in the bill.
- Requires the creation of an oversight process for evaluating and improving the performance of programs every 5 years that are undertaken by the State or by local agencies, based on performance standards set forth in statute and in the biennial Budget Act. Within one year of the effective date of this provision, a review schedule shall be established for all state program.
- Requires performance goals in state and local budgets, including a definition of “outcome measurement” of all budgeted programs.
- Allows local governments to alter how laws governing state-funded programs apply to them, unless Legislature or state agency vetoes change within 60 days. Under the proposition, counties and cities would be able to establish Community Strategic Action Plans (which are still subject to state review for performance). The proposition also requires 0.035% of tax revenues to be set aside for funding these action plans.
Why vote no?
It’s no secret that California has faced years of budget problems; weathering declines in tax bases, recessions, and the battle between no-tax pledges and spending cuts has made creating a viable budget a major challenge. While reform is needed, Proposition 31 is poorly conceived and poorly drafted. It proposes a wide-ranging number of changes that would actually increase the costs of government, with the addition of oversight of Community Strategic Action Plans, and reviews of programs for performance. IN addition, no definition of “outcome” or “performance” is found in the proposition, which states that the legislature will provide definitions and criteria once the ballot proposition has passed. Finally, Proposition 31 actually restricts spending on education, public safety and other programs, even if the state has the money—the provision that all large-scale spending must be offset by a tax increase or spending cut puts permanent restrictions on the state’s ability to allocate funding where—and when—it’s needed.
What if Proposition 31 passes?
If Proposition 31 passes, the state will have yet more money permanently earmarked for spending on Community Strategic Action Plans, whether needed or not. The state also will not be able to respond to fiscal problems as readily, because it will have to not only provide spending cuts or tax increases when neither are advisable, but also will not be able to fund key programs in education and safety as readily. IN addition, costs of programs will rise substantially because of the installation of performance reviews.
Proposition 31 is a tax and budget proposition, affects the state budget, and conflicts with Proposition 30 and 38. According to state law, the proposition with the highest number of votes will win passage over conflicting resolutions with fewer votes.
Read the ballot propositions here: