Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, says that he has more than enough signatures to put a proposal to change a limit on state spending on next year's June ballot. Now all he needs is more than enough votes--something that Californians should cheerfully provide.
The spending limit was imposed by the passage of Proposition 4 in 1979. It prevents Sacramento from increasing the state budget by more than the percentage increase in the federal consumer price index in any budget year. What escaped the notice of people who voted for it is that the price index is designed to measure the cost of living for families--not the price of highways, hospital services, public education or other public services whose cost often rises faster than that of a loaf of bread.
It took just eight years for the artificial ceiling to produce the inevitable. Public education needed $900 million more than it got in the current budget to keep up the momentum of school reform. Gov. George Deukmejian insisted--wrongly, we think--that he had no alternative to giving back to taxpayers the $1.1 billion by which Sacramento's income exceeded the spending limit. Public education lost money; the reforms, momentum.
The so-called taxpayer revolt that began in 1978 when Proposition 13 cut property taxes by $7 billion left most elected officials petrified of talking, even in whispers, about correcting moves that prevent California from making much-needed investments in its future.