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Mandates, bonds bog down state

September 25, 2008

Re "State's financial trauma just beginning," Sept. 21

Any reform to the California budget process should include prohibiting the use of the initiative process to mandate spending, whether through direct spending mandates or bond issues.

The most prominent example of this, of course, is Proposition 98, which mandates spending about 40% of the general fund budget on education. Proposition 6 on the general election ballot in November mandates spending on state and local law enforcement, even when crime has decreased statewide. In addition, Propositions 3 and 10 are initiatives that together would sell $6 billion in general obligation bonds. Bonds are not free money. They cost the treasury twice as much as the issued amount because of interest.

Budgeting by initiative encourages spending because initiatives require only a simple majority vote rather than the two-thirds required in the Legislature. The initiative process also limits the ability of the Legislature to prioritize spending among competing interests. And it increases the indebtedness of the state for decades as bonds are paid off.

In many ways, California's financial situation doesn't lie with Sacramento but with ourselves.

Raymond White

Pasadena

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