(photo: Tomas Castelazo/Wikimedia Commons; thumbnail: WyoFile/Flickr)
It’s Election Day. Before we say get out and vote (!), we have a few other things we’d like to discuss. Think of this as Scrooged, California Edition, because we’re going to talk about the past, the present and the future on this all-important day. Check the very end for an Election Day cheatsheet if you haven’t voted yet.
The Past: Ending the boom and bust budget cycle
That California sank into a pit of ruinous budgetary despair as the world economy collapsed is well-known. Its recovery is becoming just as big of a story, with cries of “Failed State” morphing into “Comeback Kid” just as Gov. Jerry Brown will likely coast to a record 4th term as governor based in no small part on his economic recovery efforts in the Golden State.
Though the fiscal mismanagement that put California’s budget into multi-billion dollar deficits involved many missteps, perhaps the most glaring was the lack of a robust rainy day fund. The line we keep coming back to is this: if household across California can employ the simple concept of setting aside money when times are good so some is available when times are bad, why can’t our state government follow suit? You don’t use your savings to buy new things, you use them as a safety net for the unexpected. Californa’s dependency on volatile capitol gains revenue is riddled with the unexpected.
Proposition 2 is endorsed by a broad bipartisan coalition, including the League of Women Voters of California, California Chamber of Commerce, both Democratic and Republican parties, taxpayer advocates and newspaper editorial boards across the state.
By making several major improvements to the state’s budgeting process, Proposition 2 will help prevent future fiscal crises. Click here, to download a one-page infographic and share on social media.
In short, Proposition 2:
- Doubles the maximum size of CA’s rainy-day fund
- Sets up automatic savings deposits
- Accelerates paying down the state’s “wall of debt”
- Captures volatile spikes in capital gains taxes
- Bars lawmakers from tapping reserve funds unless a fiscal emergency is declared
It was George Santayana who first said “those who do not remember the past are condemed to repeat it.” This is one instance where we can most certainly avoid such a pitfall.
The Present: Coping with a crippling drought
Californians will also make a decision on a timely infrastructure issue with the Proposition 1 water bond. The drought’s length and severity was bad for state agriculture but pre-election polling showed it was good for the water bond’s prospects. Californians’ concern for regional water supplies was at an all-time high and the water issue was statistically tied with “jobs and the economy” for the top problem the state faced.
While Proposition 1 may not save California from this year’s drought, it does make an initial investment in the governor’s comprehensive Water Action Plan, released last week, and many of the bond’s provisions are a positive step in the right direction.
And that’s a good thing, as new research shows future droughts are likely to get worse. State water officials have also warned there’s a lot more work and resources needed to address the state’s long-term water needs.
In terms of what the bond actually will do, the proposition dedicates a significant amount of funding to broadly-defined types of projects that will provide multiple benefits (reducing fire danger, for example, while also increasing water supply and improving water quality), it encourages integrating local water management efforts across watersheds, and it creates competitive grant processes to support infrastructure that provides the biggest return on the state’s investment.
The Future: Making sure it all works
If Prop 1 and 2 pass as expected, how they are enacted will be interesting (to those of us who worry about such things) to watch.
For Prop 1, the chronic tensions that exist around water among the regions (rural vs urban/north vs south) and the sectors (business/environment) will be revealed as the $7.5 billion dollars is divvied up. Water supply, exacerbated by the drought, water reliability and environmental quality are all factors to be considered. The early movements by advocates about “getting their share” will start as soon as the votes are counted.
For Prop 2, it will be to make sure that the legislature is paying down debt, saving money and capturing spikes in capital gain revenues. The other issue is that the current business cycle is already over five years old, which is about average. So how long the current positive economy endures will help determine how much state general fund revenue and debt retirement can actually happen.
In both instances, should they pass, the real work begins November 5 to make sure implementation has as much enthusiasm behind it as campaigning did.
BONUS: ELECTION DAY CHEATSHEET
How: Last-minute vote-by-mail voters use the ballot box not mailbox! It’s too late to mail your vote-by-mail ballot; all ballots must be RECEIVED by 8 PM on Election Day. Postmarks don’t count, yet (they will starting in 2015). Drop off your vote-by-mail ballot at a polling place in your county by 8 pm and remember to sign the envelope!
Where: Look up your polling place here and then invite your neighbors to join you at the polls.
When: Polls will be open from 7a.m. to 8 p.m.
What’s on the ballot:
- Statewide Offices: 8
- Statewide Ballot Measures: 6
- Legislative Seats: 100 of 120, 80 in the state Assembly and 20 in the state Senate
- Same-Party Senate races: 3
- Same-party Assembly races: 9
- Same-Party Congressional races: 3
- Local ballot measures: More than 400, including 268 local revenue measures, according to California City Finance which estimates roughly 200 will pass. To put that into context, voters are being asked to weigh in on more local revenue measures this November than in any of the last four gubernatorial and presidential elections.
- Jurisdictions seeking to extend of increase sales tax: 55
- Jurisdictions seeking voter approval of parcel taxes: 32
- School districts seeking authorization of a total of $11.6 billion in bonds: 113
Get Informed: Visit www.votersedge.org to look up nonpartisan information about all the measures and candidates on your ballot and print a cheat sheet with your choices checked to take into the voting booth.
Follow the Money: Find out who is spending money to influence California ballot contests and legislative races at www.votersedge.org.
Already voted? Encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to get to the polls! Take a selfie with your “I Voted” sticker and post it in the comments section or simply share your Election Day experience.
DOUBLE BONUS: ELECTION FACTOIDS
Eligible California Voters: 24,288,145 (up from 23,551,699 in 2010)
Registered California Voters: 17,803,823 or 73.3% (up from 17,285,883, or 73.4% in 2010)
County with the highest voter registration rate: Sierra (89%)
County with lowest voter registration rate: Tulare (53.7%)
- Democratic: 43.3% (down from 44.1% in 2010)
- Republican: 28.1% (down from 31% in 2010)
- No Party Preference: 23.3% (up from 20.3% in 2010)
- Other: 5.3% (up from 4.7% in 2010)
Counties with a majority of registered Democrats: 27 (unchanged since 2010)
Counties with a majority of registered Republicans: 31 (unchanged since 2010)
County with the highest percentage of Democratic Party registered voters: San Francisco (55.6%)
County with the highest percentage of Republican Party registered voters: Modoc (49.5%)
County with the highest percentage of No Party Preference registered voters: San Francisco (31.1%)
Senate District with largest number of registered voters: Senate District 26 (604,240)
Assembly District with largest number of registered voters: Assembly District 50 (309,582)
Estimated turnout: Field Poll projects only 8.2 million Californians will vote today, 46.1% of registered voters and 33.8% of eligible voters
Voting method: Field Poll estimates a record breaking 60% of votes will cast their ballots by mail, up from 48.4 percent in the 2010 gubernatorial election. By comparison, fewer than 5 percent of Californians cast ballots by mail in the 1978 general election when incumbent Governor Jerry Brown was elected to his second term.