It is election season and that means Californians once again face a daunting package of ballot questions on difficult public policy issues. This year’s initiatives cover a wide range of topics including transportation, gay marriage, criminal justice, hospital construction, the treatment of farm animals and much more. As has been the case in years past, the ballot measures are not always as straightforward as they first appear. Some are premised on questionable assumptions and value judgments. Others, despite admirable motivations, would nevertheless lead to unintended or unforeseeable adverse consequences. Some of these initiatives would empower the government to restrict individual freedom and choice in the name of uncertain benefits. And several would further burden California taxpayers by dramatically expanding the size and scope of state government, most notably by borrowing heavily against the future through bonds.
California’s latest budget deferred a nearly $15 billion shortfall to next year, so voters are going to have to be hardnosed about facing the tough choices these initiatives represent. The amount of general obligation bonds authorized in California has nearly tripled, from $42.1 billion in 2002 to a staggering $120.1 billion this year. If the four bond measures on the ballot this November are approved by voters, an additional $16.8 billion of bond debt would be authorized. Given that the state is already spending well beyond its means with an annual deficit of $15 billion, increased commitments would be financially irresponsible and an unjust hardship for future generations of taxpayers.
The nonprofit and nonpartisan Reason Foundation has evaluated the 12 initiatives on this year’s ballot.
(Note: The budget figures cited in this voter’s guide are the official estimates of the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.)