Politics is riddled with rubbish these days, but not much of it is in the same league with the flimflam in the ballot pamphlet arguments against Proposition 111.
Proposition 111 is a detailed plan for spending $18.5 billion over the last decade of this century on highways, rail systems and improved traffic flow on surface streets to help break up the state's traffic jams. It also would change the formula for determining how much state and local budgets could grow each year. It is not oriented to bargain-basement government but neither are the challenges of California's incredible growth in population.
This hardly seems to warrant the kind of alternately hysterical, irrelevant and shoddy attack that gives new meaning to the standard fine-print disclaimer in the ballot pamphlet, which states that "arguments printed on this page are the opinions of the authors and have not been checked for accuracy . . . . "
Not checked even by the authors, apparently. How else to account for the raw fraudulence of a phrase saying that Proposition 111 " . . . would eliminate the Gann Limit" on state and local spending imposed by California voters in 1979? Proposition 111 does not wipe out spending limits. It changes the formula for calculating the ceiling per year on state spending--but the ceiling stays. The new formula lets government spending increase each year only by as much as per capita income grows. That is a far more realistic formula for limiting what Sacramento can allocate each year to demands for public programs, but it is not spending unlimited.
Some of the opposing argument is more silly than sinister. For example, it screams at one point: "What (the proposition's supporters) don't tell you is that you are being asked to revise the spending limitation on government . . . ." That appears right below a statement signed by Gov. George Deukmejian and others saying that the proposition contains "a modification of the existing government spending limit . . . ."
In a classic irrelevancy, the opponents, who include a supply-side economist named Arthur B. Laffer, cite a doubling in the size of the state budget since 1980 to support their case for not changing the Gann Limit. It is irrelevant because they are describing a budget that serves 5 million more Californians and, because of inflation, has less purchasing power per person than it did a decade ago.
Another flawed claim increases the suspicion that the opponents did not read Proposition 111 before they started denouncing it. Arguing that transportation money is being wasted, the opponents say that the Department of Transportation "admits to an incredible 43% operation overhead." Caltrans admits to no such thing. One explanation for the high figure is that any project money spent to patch up environmental damage or, as in the case of the Century Freeway, to build replacement housing, appears on the books as overhead. But passage of Proposition 111 would also clamp a strict limit of 20% per project on overhead.
California voters should read Proposition 111 for what it is, not for what opponents claim it to be. A fair reading will make it clear that the state needs the kind of limited and precise expanded spending on real problems that the proposition offers. We urge a Yes vote.