COLORADO VOTERS APPARENTLY decided that "we have met the enemy and he is us," to quote a philosophical cartoon possum named Pogo. A majority voted Tuesday to suspend strict state spending limits that Coloradans themselves approved 13 years ago. They were fed up with its consequences: underfunded schools, eroded public healthcare, neglected roads and a stagnant business climate.
With a governor and a Legislature incapable of honestly balancing the budget, California today is in a situation similar to Colorado's in 1992, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants voters to enact Proposition 76 (which this editorial page opposes). The latest Times Poll shows that a substantial majority of likely voters doesn't favor the constitutional spending limit, which would reduce the rate of increase in school spending and could put higher education, state parks and public health disproportionately under the ax in a downturn.
Proponents of Proposition 76 point out that Colorado's limits were stricter and differed because they specified that in times of surplus, money had to be refunded to taxpayers instead of going into a reserve fund. A Times comparison in August found that budget analysts believed that some of California's results could echo Colorado's, especially in a prolonged revenue slump. But the larger issue is that rigid ballot initiatives are ripe for unintended consequences.