Dangers of the Ballot Initiative

At first blush, the idea of having ballot initiatives on election day seems like such a great, democratic idea. Unfortunately, all too often, all they are is a way to enlarge government, chip away at freedom, and cost the taxpayers money without returning the benefits promised. California is the perfect example of these troubles.

The problem, of course, is not that it’s too much democracy, but that few of these ballot measures are true grassroots uprisings meant to make the lives of Californians better. Instead they are moneyed special interests using their deep pockets to buy the petition process in order to get their own narrow needs favored in Sacramento.

Even as far back as 2004, the L.A. Times had soured on ballot measures. In an editorial scoffing at the whole system, the Times ended saying, “Ballot-box legislating — often swayed by false or misleading advertising — is no way to run a state of 36 million people and such diverse needs.”

That same year in San Jose, for instance, a ballot measure appear that was supposed to go to funding of libraries. The measure was supposed to raise the budget for libraries to $48 million per year but despite that good natured taxpayers approved the budget measure the city ended up cutting the library expenditures down to $32 million annually. This is a typical case where tax hikes approved by voters never ended up going where voters thought they were going to go. This year, new ballot measures meant to correct the library budget deficiency are being proposed but these measures are likely to make matters worse.

In another case, Richmond, California is sponsoring tax measures on the ballot that according to Tim Bittle, an attorney with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, may even be illegal.

All too often these ballot measures foisted on voters are boondoggles. From property tax hikes, surcharges on one thing or another, high-speed rail or stem-cell research, the tax-and-spend lobby is often unscrupulous in what they put in front of the California voter. One such boondoggle that will appear on the ballots is Proposition 29, the California Cancer Research Act, a measure that continues this sorry tradition of fleecing taxpayers for even more wasteful spending.

A new study by former California Director of Finance Michael Genest found that Proposition 29 continues the destructive practice of California government creating a slew of unaccountable bureaucracies that usurp taxpayer dollars while growing more unaccountable to voters. Genest evaluated Proposition 29 in light of past California bureaucracies created at the ballot box–such as high-speed rail, the stem-cell research institute and First 5 — and found striking similarities in the lack of oversight, accountability and conflict of interest rules.

An additional paper by Peter Schaasfma, the former Assistant State Treasurer of California, notes that the lack of oversight of the new agency “is likely to generate significant controversy over expenditures of taxpayer monies.”

Like the boondoggles of years past, Proposition 29 is a bad choice for California taxpayers struggling in the current recession. Voters need to send a clear message this June and defeat this ill-advised spending measure.

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  • herddog505

    Warner Todd HustonAt first blush, the idea of having ballot initiatives on election day seems like such a great, democratic idea. Unfortunately, all too often, all they are is a way to enlarge government, chip away at freedom, and cost the taxpayers money without returning the benefits promised.

    Which, as I understand it, is exactly why the Founding Fathers feared democracy almost as much as they would have feared the pit of hell.

    • warnertoddhuston

      Exactly right.

  • Guest

    The tobacco lobby is busily working to defeat Prop 29.

    And lying through their teeth in the process -just like they have before.

    http://youtu.be/jQUNk5meJHs

    • Sky__Captain

      And trust him, Grumpy knows lying – he’s an expert at it.

      Senile dumbass…

      • jim_m

        Well the troll links to a video where the execs are saying that nicotine does not meet the classical definition of an addictive substance and they are factually correct.   In fact for most smokers I have know the claim has been that the psychological component of the habit is far more difficult to deal with than the actual physical withdrawal symptoms.  In that sense it is in ways more of a process addiction (like gambling or shopping) than it is a physical addiction based on the need for the drug.

        Remember that when that video was made the definition of addiction was not as it is today.  Addiction implied a physical dependence upon the substance and not merely the compulsion to use it.  Back then addiction also implied that a tolerance to the drug was built up requiring ever increasing amounts of the drug to satisfy the addict.  Today the definition has been broadened to mean anything that someone can do obsessively.

        And just because it suits him so well:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvcJqcUlYTo

        • Digg34

          Thats hilarious Jim. I don’t think I will be able to picture him any other way now.

        • warnertoddhuston

          Grumpy the Dwarf also didn’t even address Prop 29 but went off on some tangent about tobacco companies. Prop 29 has precisely ZIP to do with tobacco companies.

          • Guest

            Wow, really? Thank you for setting the record straight Todd.

            Your honesty is refreshing.

            Oh, wait…no— uhm- oh geez,sorry Todd- don’t ban me for this, ok?

            California Proposition 29, Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research Act (June 2012)

            The major tobacco companies
            and their subsidiaries have poured in nearly $40 million to defeat
            Proposition 29 in the June 5 election, compared with less than $4
            million on the Yes on 29 campaign.The tobacco industry stands to lose $1 billion annually in profits, according to the Yes on 29 campaign.

            Todd:“Prop 29 has precisely ZIP to do with tobacco companies.”

            in reply to :The tobacco lobby is busily working to defeat Prop 29.

            And lying through their teeth in the process -just like they have before.

            http://youtu.be/jQUNk5meJHs

            Care to explain, Todd? Or is time to go back into hiding?

            Todd:“Prop 29 has precisely ZIP to do with tobacco companies.”

            http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_20574661/doctors-promote-proposed-california-tobacco-tax-new-ad

  • GarandFan

    Just another case of a well-intentioned idea being abused.  Many of the “initiatives” today have to do with the budgetary process, and MANDATE that X percentage of the budget will provide for ________________.  Only problem is when you have feast, then famine.  The folks get used to the feast part.  When famine comes, as far as they’re concerned, everyone else should suffer cuts.  Then there’s just the rampant abuse.  Look at California First Five and Meathead Rob Reiner.  He pushed for it’s adoption.  Then got himself appointed to supervise the disbursement of the tax money.  Then he later okays several million to be spent on political ads for other liberal propositions.  End result.  He got caught and fired.  Did he go to prison?  No.  Was he asked to replace the funds that he spent?  No.

    • jim_m

      Of course he doesn’t go to prison.  He’s a lefty attempting to advance the lefty agenda.  Laws were never intended to be used against people like him.  Had he been a conservative he’d be wearing Velcro shoes and an orange jumpsuit for a long time already.

  • Ballot Initiatives are a tool, and like any tool may be used for good or evil.

    I’m a Californian, and I hold the process has been being abused for some time now.  I am thus very skeptical of all ballot measures and read the actual measure carefully to see if there is a reason to reverse my basic position of NO.

  • Commander_Chico

    Why are you against democracy, Warner?  

    Initiatives in California have been all over the political map.  People can vote the way they wish.   

    • warnertoddhuston

      Why are you anti-American, “Commander” Che-co? This sort of thing is against our founding principles. Why are you against our founding principles? Oh, wait. I know why. You are a liberal. Liberals hate America.

      • Any thinking and reasonably educated person is opposed to pure democracy, which is why the Founding Fathers established a Constitutionally limited Federal (democratically elected) Representative Republic vice a democracy.

    • jim_m

       I think the point is that a direct democracy has many dangers not the least including the tyranny of the majority and the susceptibility to populist demagoguery. 

      That is why the founders created a republic with a representative democracy where the rights of the minority were protected.  We see it throughout our government with the filibuster in the Senate, with the equality of representation in the Senate itself and with the structure of he electoral college. 

      The left wants direct democracy because it believes that it is in the majority and it desperately wants the tyranny of the majority. 

      • ackwired

        Your considered response is a welcome contrast to Huston’s typical attack.

        • Your kind word and $10.00 will buy a second rate cup of coffee (surcharge for egregious hypocrisy will get you every time).

          • ackwired

            I had hoped for a little more from you, Rodney.

          • I had hoped for substantially less from you.

        • warnertoddhuston

          I reply respectfully when I respect the one I’m replying to.

          • ackwired

            Good to know it can happen.