Legislature source of most costly ballot measures

Legislators love to complain about how the ballot initiative process costs the state money and ties their hands on the budget.

But a new analysis from the nonprofit Center for Governmental Studies revealed today in Oakland shows that of the $11.85 billion worth of ballot measures voters approved between 1988 and 2009, 83 percent were placed on the ballot by the Legislature.

“Most of the ballot-box budgeting has come from you,” Center for Governmental Studies President Bob Stern told members today of the Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Improving State Government co-chaired by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

The center found that of the 68 ballot measures requiring additional funding passed by voters between 1988-2009, 51 originated with the Legislature while 17 were placed on the ballot by proponents who successfully gathered the requisite number of signatures.

Of the 68 measures, 52 were bond measures.

The legislative measures required $9.8 billion in additional government funding, or 83 percent, while the balance totaled $2.05 billion.

The most expensive legislative measure came in 2004, when voters approved a $15 billion plan to close the budget deficit.

The highest price tag among the 17 initiatives that passed was the $500 million annual after-school program.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • Anne Layzer

    One explanation for the number of money ballot measures coming from the legislature could be that ballot measures need only 50 + 1 % while the same proposals would require a two-thirds majority in the legislature.

    Part of the current budget crisis is that measures put on the ballot by the legislature or public petition often spend money without naming or providing a revenue source.

  • John W.

    You know we are in trouble when even public forums to discuss government reform get blown up because they can’t find a key to the building. There was to be such a “Town Hall” forum at the Veterans Hall in Danville Wednesday night, with presentations from the Bay Area Council etc. But after roughly a half hour of trying to track down somebody with the key, they moved it to Starbucks. I passed.

  • Elwood

    I cannot believe that anyone would freely admit that he/she is a member of the CA leg.

    I would prefer to tell people that I am a pimp or a dope dealer, each of which carries more prestige than the leg.

  • First, congratulations on Lisa for noting this report. It is very interesting reading.

    The public is often persuaded to vote for these propositions because of misleading sound bites. For example, the latest $11.1 billion water bond the Governor and the Legislature just put on the 2010 ballot spoke about California’s need for water during the press conference. Nobody emphasizes the fact that the bonds plus interest (around $22 billion) will have to be paid out of the state budget that is likely to be $25 billion in the red next year. That means budget cuts or increased taxes if it passes. I would like the Governor and Legislature to tell Californians what will have to be eliminated from the state budget if these bonds pass.

  • Elwood

    Follow that scooplet: Speaking of initiatives, nice work by Lisa Vorderbrueggen over at Political Blotter, who flagged a Center for Governmental Studies report showing that most of the ballot measures hamstringing the Governor and Legislature on budget matters come from…the Governor and Legislature.

    “Most of the ballot-box budgeting has come from you,” Bob Stern, president of the goo-goo group (they’re everywhere!) told the Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Improving State Government, which met in Oakland last week.

    “A new analysis from the nonprofit Center for Governmental Studies…shows that of the $11.85 billion worth of ballot measures voters approved between 1988 and 2009, 83 percent were placed on the ballot by the Legislature…

    So much for all the national media geniuses who parachuted in to report on California’s budget mess and concluded that the main problem is those whacky Left Coast voters running amok with goofy initiatives.


  • J

    Kris, based on what tends to happen in budget crisis lately, i’d imagine it will be more rounds of slashing public education (and raising CC/CSU/UC fees) and social welfare. Even if the Democrats get Brown into the Governor’s mansion again, I don’t see any desire amongst the electeds to follow through with taking on Prop 13 like a lot of the party activists want. The sceptic in me reads the situation as the electeds recognizing they can exhaust their term-limit time by campaigning on popular slogans (basically empty/broken promises) of fighting for education and public services, rather than take a risk and go after big issues facing the State like pension and prison reform or taxes (or how the South’s population and growth future is environmentally irresponsible and not sustainable without tens of billions in expenditure), because the calculus seems to be that the Leg doesn’t need to stick their neck out when local school districts will do the dirty work and save the day by putting up local parcel tax initiatives every year.

  • Ralph Hoffmann, Guest Columnist

    The Town Hall Meeting on State Government Reform at the Danville Veteran’s Hall is this evening, 7-9pm, starring State Senator Mark DeSaulnier.

  • Elwood

    I’d rather attend a meeting starring Zippy the Pinhead.