Initiatives Fail, Media Blame Voters


A variety of ballot measures meant to cope with the state's fiscal crisis failed big at the polls. But Prop 1F that will ban legislators pay raises during years in which deficits for the state are predicted passes widely. The citizens, at least those who bothered to vote, seem mad at the politicians. But the state's media are mad at the citizens.

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The five fiscal measures all lost by over 60 percent. Now, as the L.A. Times reports, state officials are scrambling for new means to cope with huge deficits:

The "big five" elected leaders -- Schwarzenegger and the legislative chieftains from both houses -- are slated to begin closed-door meetings today upon the governor's return from Washington, where he spent election day after casting a last-minute absentee ballot......Schwarzenegger has called for cuts that would hit every corner of the state. He announced plans to lay off 5,000 of the state's 235,000 workers and has proposed slashing education by up to $5 billion, selling state properties, borrowing $2 billion from local governments and potentially reducing eligibility for healthcare programs.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa predicted that the city's budget could take a hit -- but he vowed a fight: "I'm going to do everything I can to protect the city coffers."

While these results show voting citizens are angry and disgusted with state politicians and have no interest in making it easier for them to shuffle around cash to deal with the state's fiscal problems, even though pro-initiative forces outspent opponents over 10 to 1, state media seem to think the real problem is citizens making it hard on politicians.

As Joseph Mailander at his Street Hassle blog shows in a convenient chart, most state newspapers disagreed strongly with the voters about the merits of the initiatives. Loud complaints came from the Times and the Sacramento Bee about petulant voters messing things up for elected representatives with their complicated set of demands and restrictions on how money can be raised and spent in the state.

My colleagues at Reason magazine, and both former L.A. Times men themselves, Matt Welch and Tim Cavanaugh both poked at the media for being out of touch with what's really wrong with state fiscal policy: the state. As Welch wrote:

the sheer disproportionality of the blame-the-voter analysis reveals what close readers have long suspected is true: The Golden State's political class has long since given up agitating for government growth to be pared back even to the growth rate of inflation-plus-population. They treat massive public-sector pensions as a given, shudder with revulsion even at the mere scare-mention of a tiny percentage of state workers getting laid off, and pin the burden of proof not on the politicians who shovel up crappy new budget gimmicks, but rather on the voters who sensibly tell them to get stuffed.

In more local races, Carmen Trutanich beat Jack Weiss in their contentious runoff for city attorney, and city council district 5 as of this writing seems to be very narrowly in the hands of Paul Koretz over David Vahedi. See this L.A. Times account for more details.

Capitol Weekly predicts that Schwarzenegger's next step to dealing with a $21 billion budget gap is to return to the fiscal tough guy he sold himself as when running against Gray Davis in the first place:

Republicans who liked the first version of Arnold Schwarzenegger might find something to like in Schwarzenegger 3.0.

"In some instances, a loss is as much a mandate as a win," said [Schwarzenegger strategist Adam] Mendelsohn. "It's clear that he carries a mandate to cut the California budget down to the bone."

L.A. County twittered local results, and reported a local turnout of only 17 percent of eligible voters.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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