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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