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I am Voting No ...

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May. 13th, 2009 | 05:09 pm

I keep re-reading the ballot book to find a reason to vote for any of the propositions in next week's election.  My search has not been successful.

The fundamental imbalance between revenues and expenses is maintained if the any/all the propositions pass.  The structural overspending/under-collecting will continue.

Me, I see two issues that must be fixed. But each problem has hugely powerful interests protecting it.
  1. We are too generous to public employees. I believe in compensating public service workers well, but we've screwed up. Twenty-five years ago when I was in civil service, workers were paid medium/low wages, but the understanding was the the jobs were secure and benefits -- including lifetime retirement benefits -- were good. Then the unions successfully argued for competitive current salaries. There's nothing wrong with the unions doing that, but it's horrible that the politicians granted higher current pay without adjusting benefits and retirement. We just cannot afford to be this generous.
  2. We are spending tons of money on smaller classrooms, but the controlled studies say that students in smaller classrooms do not do any better by any measure, unless the classroom size gets to be about 15 (if I remember correctly).  So, we have hired a lot more teachers -- many who are inexperienced to reduce classroom size from 35 students (which I had in school) to the low 20's.  We have spent a lot more money for additional classrooms and schools.  All of this for no educational benefit.  The teacher unions have a lot more members, and are even more powerful, under this scheme.  But, this half-assed reduction in classroom size isn't helping the kids or the state.

But, these issues -- or other structural changes are not even talked about.  Instead, the commercials show sweaty firefighters saving our lives and begging for a YES vote.   It's "Vote Yes or I shoot this Fireman".

Sorry, Mr. Fireman.

Here's a good summary of the ballot issue and the positions of major organizations (League of Woman Voters, California Federation of Teachers, etc.).  Surprising -- and unhappily -- most of the neutral good-government organizations recommend NO votes.

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Comments {5}

Fuzzygruf

(no subject)

from: fuzzygruf
date: May. 14th, 2009 12:24 am (UTC)
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All the props seem to be a result of lazy legislators. They don't want the responsibility, and they pass it off to us voters. Then the governor cuts some programs and gets to blame us.

We get to incur the costs of one of the lamest elections I've seen. Bastards!

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Big John in San Francisco

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from: bigjohnsf
date: May. 14th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
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As I wrote earlier, I'm only voting for 1B because it would be a disaster if 1A won and 1B did not. I may not be able to resist the empty symbolic gesture of voting for 1F.

You and I are never going to agree politically, but I'm curious about the union bashing. Generally, I don't think most government employees (except for unskilled) are paid better than in the private sector. As for benefits, unions are responsible for some of the only unskilled jobs (and even skilled jobs) with benefits.

While we won't agree on the specifics, the problem is an imbalance of spending versus taxation. In the midst of rising crime and crumbling infrastructure it is difficult to argue that we need to cut services, and while we can look at paying people less we have to pay what the market requires.

The truth is that we are going to have to raise taxes, and we are going to have to get rid of Proposition 13. Everyone knows Prop 13 has to go, but no one has the balls to touch that third rail.

In the U.S. we have a far lower tax burden than most of the industrialized world and yet we expect to have a better standard of living.

The problem is, how do you raise taxes in a recession. And, when we do raise taxes we not only have to pay for the services we need now, but for the services we didn't pay for in the past.

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Galen of the Ozdachs Pack

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from: ozdachs
date: May. 15th, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
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Yep, we generally won't agree on politics! But, I don't want to sign up for the label as a union basher. I mentioned the union positions as helping us get into the mess, but I also said that the unions were being reasonable advocates for their members. The problem was not the unions, but it was the management who agreed to impossibly generous overall compensation (competitive current salaries and world class benefits that stretch into retirement). It was a management/politician problem, not a union one.

And, there's still no one in management or in the union who is suggesting a fundamental rejiggering of the compensation formulas. Managers from the Governor on over to the Democrats in the legislature are content to lay off workers and cut services without negotiating the compensation packages. The unions are complicit, sacrificing jobs rather than lowering the impossibly high compensation of the survivors.

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Big John in San Francisco

(no subject)

from: bigjohnsf
date: May. 15th, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
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It is increasingly apparent that giving unions unsustainable contracts is a deliberate strategy to bust unions.

And, yes, I agree, everyone should share the burden. There should have been pay cuts.

And, as I've said before, the bailout money should have prohibited layoffs.

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dr_scott

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from: dr_scott
date: May. 14th, 2009 04:55 am (UTC)
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Now it looks like the real deficit will be twice what the propositions were supposed to fix, so even if they pass more will be needed. I agree with you that public employees have gained a little too much of the budget (with their pay roughly equivalent to the private sector, but benefits and pensions much beyond.) They do need to share some of the pain everyone else feels. The state has built too many prisons and hired too many people; with one of the highest tax rates, we have some of the worst educational performance. There hasn't been much innovation or productivity improvement in education, with diffuse accountability and funding making it impossible for anyone to improve very much.

I had been leaning to voting for the propositions just to avoid the short-term disruptions, but since it seems we have a mess anyway, maybe their failure will force a better longer-term outcome: some more cuts, some temporarily much higher taxes, plus a commission to re-examine state revenues and spending with an eye to a thorough systemic overhaul. Prop 13 does have to go, plus a lot of other weird funding mandates, victimless crimes, and outdated agencies.

To defend Schwarzenegger in this, if his original package of reforms had been passed by voters, this crisis probably could have been put off for years. But they were mau-mau'd by the unions (those nurses and firefighters on TV again.)

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