Policy Brief

California’s May 2009 Special Election

Analyzing the Propositions and Offering Alternatives for Real Reform
Policy Brief 79

The six measures on the special election ballot represent an attempt by legislators and the governor to right the state’s fiscal ship. They assert that passage of these propositions will balance the state’s budget. The bills presented by legislators all have the same goal of increasing the General Fund, which legislators can spend as they see fit.

Propositions 1A and 1B increase the General Fund directly through taxation, and Proposition 1C increases the General Fund via borrowing. These propositions provide a one-step process for increasing unrestricted funds. Propositions 1D and 1E take funds that taxpayers voted to spend on mental health services and children’s services and reroute those monies to pay for services that are currently paid out of the General Fund. By freeing up the General Fund from having to pay for these services, these propositions effectively redirect money to the General Fund where it is unrestricted, the same money that voters had approved specifically for mental health and children’s programs.

These propositions present a two-step process to increasing unrestricted funds: first encourage voters to approve increased taxes for specific causes like mental health and services, then ask voters to approve redirecting those funds into the General Fund.

Unfortunately, passage of these propositions will not bring any meaningful reform or solve the state’s structural deficit, but will impose higher taxes on the already overburdened backs of taxpayers.