Tuesday is an election day in California, and voters will be presented with six measures aimed at balancing the budget. But recent polls -- and expectations at the registrar's office -- suggest that not many of those voters will bother to show up, and that those that will are generally in a negative mood about the measures.
After months of wrangling over the state's budget deficit through 2010, California politicians finally passed a long-overdue budget in February. But even that budget wasn't the final word on the matter: Legislators decided to let California voters make the decision on major aspects of the budget, including cuts to social and educational services, transferring money from special funds and deciding whether to borrow against lottery profits.
The complicated nature of the measures -- and the fact that the state's budget problems have only compounded since February -- seem to have left many California voters frustrated with the job being done Sacramento. A Field Poll released May 1, for example, stated that "only 14 percent of the state's registered voters now approve of the job that the state legislature is doing, while three out of four (74 percent) disapprove. This is the poorest rating of the state legislature ever recorded by the Field Poll in trend measures dating back to the early 1980s."
That low rating seems to be translating into low interest in the special election. According to Elma Rosas, spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office, only 40 percent of registered county voters are expected to vote (29 percent have already voted by mail, and 11 percent are predicted to come to the polls on Tuesday). By comparison, Rosas said, around 60 percent of Santa Clara County voters cast ballots in the 2003 recall election, and 51 percent voted in the November 2005 special election.
"We are not seeing the excitement and interest," Rosas said.
Mountain View residents still planning to vote on Tuesday can find their local polling place by clicking here.
A LOOK AT THE MEASURES:
Proposition 1A sends a portion of state revenues to a "rainy day fund" for use in lean years. The percentage set aside for economic downturns increases from 5 to 12.5 percent of the state's general fund. Spending is capped at a 10-year average of state revenue, adjusted for population growth and inflation. Revenue above that average goes into reserves, requiring the state in most years to put a projected 3 percent of its general fund revenues in the reserve fund, which could only be used for budget shortfalls, bond repayments and emergencies such as natural disasters, or if the governor declares a fiscal emergency. It also extends a 1 percent state sales tax increase for one year, and extends a vehicle license fee increase and top income bracket increase for two years, generating some $16 billion in revenue. The measure also authorizes the governor to make mid-year spending reductions if the budget falls out of balance.
Proposition 1B requires additional payments to school districts and community colleges beginning in 2011-12 to offset recent budget cuts. Payments come from the rainy day fund established in 1A and continue until the total amount is repaid.
Proposition 1C makes changes to improve performance of the state lottery and to increase payouts and proceeds. It also allows the state to borrow $5 billion against projected lottery proceeds to address the current budget deficit.
Proposition 1D temporarily redirects $600 million in funds from the California Children and Families Act (1998's Proposition 10) to the general fund for support of Health and Human Services programs for children. Additionally, it diverts $268 million in 2010-11 to 2013-14. Early childhood development programs funded by the act would be cut.
Proposition 1E redirects $230 million from Mental Health Services Act funds (2004's Proposition 63) for two years to existing health programs. Community mental health programs would be cut.
Proposition 1F prohibits legislators and state constitutional officers from receiving pay raises when the state is running a deficit.