Paul Jacob

On Tuesday, Californians will get to do something that I love to do: Vote. The Golden State’s Assembly has placed six measures on a statewide special election ballot.

Forget for a moment that these ballot measures 1A through 1F include a giant tax increase paired with a phony spending cap, an authorization to borrow billions from future lottery receipts, and two spending shifts away from voter-approved programs.

Remember that five of the six propositions seem thankfully headed to almost certain defeat. In fact, the only ballot item that appears likely to win — and win big — is Proposition 1F, which stops pay increases for the governor, top state officials, and state legislators when the general fund is in deficit.

Legislators were offering this one sweetener. Voters seem likely to eat this sweet dessert and leave the meat and potatoes behind.

I won’t blame them for voting down the first five measures. I would, too. In fact, I envy Californians for getting the opportunity to vote these idiotic proposals down. I’d certainly like an opportunity to veto plenty of stuff passed by my legislature, and to weigh in on budget decisions.

In Virginia, decisions are made in Richmond with seldom any direct input from the people. And unlike California and 23 other states, we have no initiative and referendum process to check the legislature or to pass reforms ourselves.

It’s not that California doesn’t have problems; it does. It’s just that the problems don’t stem from too much citizen say-so.

Politicians and insiders often blame California’s voter initiative and referendum process for the state’s budgetary problems. They blame term limits, passed by initiative. They blame the two-thirds vote requirements for the California Legislature to pass a budget or raise taxes, again mandated by initiative.

Yet, they ignore the simple fact that Californians love their state’s initiative and referendum process, and the many reforms that have sprung from the process.

Me? I go with the idea that the customer is always right. And voters, not politicians or anointed experts, are the customers of government.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.