Even George Will argued in a recent column that The Legislature has limited or no control over as much as 85 percent of revenue. That might be a problem, if it were true. Its not. A recent study by University of Southern California Professor John Matsusaka found that one initiative, Prop 98, accounts for almost all of the states voter-initiative-mandated spending. The measure sets a spending floor for K-12 and community colleges amounting to 40 percent of the state budget. Neither Republican nor Democratic legislators are looking to cut education spending below this level. Public education spending reduction is not on many campaign planks. But if politicians did want to reduce that base level, they certainly could, as Proposition 98 specifically authorizes the legislature to suspend the spending requirements if they deem it necessary.
As Professor Matsusaka put it, Without Proposition 98, only 4 percent of the budget is locked in by initiatives. As Mr. Will and most legislators can no doubt deduce,
4 < 85
Lets not forget the 2009 report of the non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office, which debunked the notion that legislators hands were tied on budget matters. In reality, however, the Legislature remains in control of the vast majority of state spending, the report found, and went on to state, Such decisions are often more restricted by the lack of political consensus as opposed to any structural budgetary constraint.
Californias initiative process is not the problem; in fact, its the solution. Even many folks opposed to the initiative process recognize that it comprises the only viable path to much needed reform, as any reform measure proposed by such unpopular legislators would be considered fatally suspect.
The problem is the rest of governmental decisions, those made not through the democratic check of a citizen initiative or referendum but through so-called representative government. Add to these decision those made by the administration of that government, which is supposed to be checked and balanced by the peoples representatives.
Its a whole mess of bad choices.
In a representative system, the failure of government just might be a failure of adequate representation. As those who do some simple math can attest, California's legislature strains the very concept. Every member of the State Senate must speak for over a million Californians and each member of the Assembly for more than half a million. Seven U.S. states have a smaller total population than a single California senate district.
As Rescue California, a new group urging the creation of more districts with smaller populations, states on its website, California has 40 Senators and 80 Representative in its Assembly, the same number as it had in 1879, when the state had under 1,000,000 residents. It now has over 37 million people . . .
Such gargantuan districts make political competition difficult — the cost of getting into the arena is often prohibitive. Walking ones district and knocking on doors would take years, so the power of paid advertising, direct mail and the endorsements and turnout activities of the states most powerful interests cannot help but dominate. Overwhelmingly.
Once in office, the perch is so lofty that only the states term limits law seems capable of up-ending incumbents.
Unfortunately, across the country there has been a push to reduce the size of legislatures, rather than increase them. The idea is that fewer legislators will save taxpayers money. But this intuition is misguided, as California demonstrates with a vengeance.
Large population districts are nearly universal, with only a few New England states blessed with districts of reasonable size. But the populations of Californias districts dwarf those in other states.
Sadly, the idea that smaller districts will give citizens greater representation is still not on the publics radar screen. But the seriousness of Californias problem with unrepresentative government has convinced thoughtful observers from across the political spectrum that increasing the size of Californias tiny assembly is a necessary prerequisite to solving the crisis in state government.
A bipartisan, non-partisan, transpartisan grassroots campaign is desperately needed. And may be on the cusp. Liberals Joe Mathews and Mark Paul in their book California Crack-Up call for increasing the size of the legislature. Republican John Cox, the leader of Rescue California, calls for a much more dramatic increase.
The solution to a failure of representation is greater representation. But since increasing representation will weaken individual representatives power, such a reform would no doubt be opposed by powerful legislators and political power brokers.
It can only succeed through the states citizen initiative process.
Michelle Obama: "Make It A Christmas Treat Around The Table To Talk About...Health Care" | Greg Hengler
Albert Mohler on "Duck Dynasty" Suspension: He's "Unquestionably Faithful to the Scripture" | Greg Hengler
DHS Complicit in Cartel Human Trafficking of Minors to Illegals Living in the United States | Katie Pavlich