The Right Coast

March 03, 2004
Proposition 56
By Gail Heriot

One heartening result of yesterday’s election here in California was the drubbing of Proposition 56, which went down by a 2 to1 margin. The main effect of passage would have been to allow the California Legislature to pass a budget and budget-related tax and appropriations bills with a 55 % majority, rather than the 2/3 majority currently required. I was against it, because I view the 2/3 majority as an important protection against pork-barrel politics. But that really isn’t what causes me to celebrate its defeat; I can easily imagine people of good will being on both sides of that issue.

What bothered me about the campaign was the level of pure misrepresentation by initiative supporters. They called it “The Budget Accountability Act” and emphasized that it was an effort to “get tough” with irresponsible deficits. Voters were left with the impression that the initiative actually increases the size of the majority necessary to pass a budget, rather than decreases it.

As usual, however, fears that California voters are rock stupid turned out to be unfounded. The word got out. The public employees unions managed to get out their vote in favor of the initiative. But it looks like the rest of the state overwhelmingly rejected it. It’s not nice to try to fool California voters. They can get pretty testy about it.