The South Orange County Regional Chambers of Commerce has put together a list of the 65 petitions currently in circulation in California. Only about 8 of them are to be voted on in November, 2005.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided that a special election will be necessary. This special election is supposed to save Californians millions of dollars and is to be an election that couldn’t possibly be held off or rescheduled for a later date, like next year in the regular election cycle when finances have been set aside for such an election and wouldn’t present any more of a fiscal burden than normal. Schwarzenegger seems to take his task of fixing California’s fiscal crisis seriously, constantly drumming up the rhetoric of “cleaning house” in relation to his charge. He continues to hit on the need for cooperation in passing a balanced state budget and speaks of a refusal to bend to special interest groups.
Here is Schwawrzenegger’s job, in his own words:
When you elected me governor, I made a promise. I said I would put Californias [sic] financial house in order and reform a government that no longer listened to the people. (Source)
With the seriousness of Arnold’s job, you’d think this special election has on it issues that relate directly to reforming the way California government spends its money and responds to the will of the people. You’d think that each initiative would work to save Californians money, create better systems, streamline bureaucracy, and generally make life in California better.
Instead, what we see is a list of initiatives that reads more like a list of pet peeves than a list of reforms:
- Initiative 1067 (Prop. 73) – What does a constitutional amendment with regard to minors’ abortion rights have to do with alleviating California’s financial burdens? Show me the studies, produce the research that suggests that fewer abortions by minors would save Californians money and I’ll understand. I won’t agree, but at least I’ll understand why it’s on this special election ballot. Right now, initiative 1067 sticks out like a sore thumb given Schwarzenegger’s promise listed above.
- Initiative 1084 (Prop. 75) – The way union dues are spent is not something that falls under the purview of government. The government has no business involving itself in this matter. Union money is not governmental money. If union members want more control over how their money is spent, there are systems in place to raise this issue to union grievance representatives and there is a process in place to carry out this reform if there is a mandate. Regardless of whether or not I agree with this idea, how does this save Californians money? How does it make California government more responsive to the voters’ needs?
- Initiative 1088 (Prop. 74) – I could write a book at this point, but I’ll try to make this short and direct. Changing the amount of time it takes for a teacher to achieve tenure will do nothing toward the end of solving California’s fiscal crisis. Tenured teachers are not paid any more just because they are tenured. And not all teachers receive tenure after 2 years; working within a district for 2 years is just one part of receiving tenure. There are teachers I have been working with for the last 5 years who are not tenured. Furthermore, I argue that the teachers of low quality, those teachers that we might want to remove from the classroom and at whom initiatives such as these are aimed, are not those teachers who have begun teaching recently. The teachers we want to get rid of are the burnt out teachers, those who have been teaching for 15 or 20 years and have no love for the job anymore. How does changing the waiting period for tenure from 2 to 5 years improve public education? How does it save California any money? How does it force California government to listen to the people? Where is the mandate for this miniscule, meaningless change that would necessitate a costly special election?
- Initiative 1131 (Prop. 76) – This is Schwarzenegger’s ploy to get rid of proposition 98, a proposition that states that voters think public education is important enough to guarantee minimum funding to it regardless of current economical factors. In light of things like the Williams Settlement telling California that not enough money has been invested in our education system and the fact that the public education system was the “good dog” last year when it gave up $2 billion in funding in order to help reach a balanced budget (the jury’s still out on whether or not that money has been paid back), Schwarzenegger has made teachers out to be leaches sucking the California economy dry, a special interest group that needs to be stopped before all of California’s money is spent on a poor education system. Cutting back on education funding presents a bit of a problem, students “left behind” due to insufficient funds (students as bounced checks) among them.
- Initiatives 1072, 1106, 1114, and 1129 (props. 77, 79, 80, and 78 respectively) – I don’t know much about these initiatives, but maybe some good will come of them.
In the end, though, I’m left with the same two questions about these initiatives as I have about all others:
- Where are the studies that show any of these propositions to save Californians money?
- How does this make California government more responsive to the people?
If the Governor wants to live up to his self-proclaimed promise, this special election is not a step in that direction.
Updated 09.02.05 to correspond initiatives to propositions on the ballot.