Reason Foundation Gives More Evidence That Initiatives NOT to Blame for California Budget Woes

Tue, Oct 6 2009 by Anonymous

As the attacks continue against California’s ballot initiative process, three scholars at the Reason Foundation are injecting some, well, reason into the debate. In a column written by Shikha Dalmia, Adrian Moore an Adam B. Summers that ran in the Wall Street Journal, they point out that “[California] voters aren’t tying lawmakers’ hands too much, but too little.”

Pundits and politicians alike love to blame voters for California’s current budget crisis, claiming that various initiatives over the years have locked up too much of the budget and prevented what they claim are necessary tax hikes. Along with that blame come calls to further restrict or scrap the initiative process. One candidate for governor has even gone so far as to make the ridiculous assertion that the initiative process has “outlived its usefulness”.

The Reason team cites a study done in 2003 by Initiative and Referendum Institute President Dr. John Matsusaka in which he found that “the initiative seems to be a scapegoat for the inability of California’s elected officials to manage the competing demands for public funds in a period of declining revenue.” In case you think those 2003 numbers are out of date, the Reason folks tell us that the non partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office looked at all the restrictions on the state’s budget from initiatives and other sources and found that:

“Despite these restrictions, the legislature maintains considerable control over the state budget—particularly over the longer term.”

If not the voters and their initiatives, what could have possibly caused the state’s problems? As the Reason team found:

[Ballot initiatives] are not the root cause of California’s fiscal disaster. That cause is the government’s spending addiction. From 1990 to 2008, California’s revenues increased 167%, but total spending soared 181%.

The Golden State’s problem is not overly controlling voters—but out-of-control politicians.