California Voters Turn to Fiscal Restraint

Earlier this month California voters rejected two ballot initiatives, one for libraries, and the other for universal preschool. When combined with the winless record from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Nov. 8, 2005, special election, it appears Golden State voters are in a cranky mode, turning thumbs down on all 10 ballot measures offered to them over the past seven months. 

Lest liberals draw succor from the results, four of the 10 failed measures were clearly Democrat-backed, while five were backed by Republicans (drug companies backed the 10th).

The latest ballot box defeats were surprising for their scope and portent for the November 2006 election cycle. Both propositions were emotionally charged issues that one would typically consider an easy sell to a Democrat weighted primary in one of the nation’s bluest states. If voters are willing to reject bonds and taxes for feel good measures such as libraries and preschools, fiscally prudent Californians have reason to be optimistic for November.

Proposition 81 was a $600 million library bond measure that would have continued California’s irresponsible reliance on borrowing. California’s debt-to-credit ratio continues to remain one of the worst in the country, yet liberals keep asking voters to approve more bonds. Luckily, it went down 47%-53%, passing in only 13 of California’s 58 counties.

The defeat of the library bond was a victory for fiscal accountability and was surprising when considering that Californians have a history of approving most state bond measures. Prop. 81’s defeat also signals an uphill battle for Gov. Schwarzenegger’s $37.3 billion roads, schools, levees, and low income housing bond package due to be voted on this November.

Proposition 82’s shellacking was even more severe, losing in all but three of California’s 58 counties by a margin of 39%-61%. Prop. 82 was Hollywood Rob Reiner’s tax-the-rich scheme to fund universal preschool. Projected to boost taxes by $2.1 billion in the first year alone, Prop. 82 was so bad that only 58% of San Franciscans voted for it. This was a shocking defeat for the routine Democrat scheme of targeting the wealthy.

The June primary defeat for the liberal ballot measures was made all the more unusual in that the turnout model heavily favored the Democrats as they were driven to the polls by a heavily contested gubernatorial contest. When the votes were all in, Democrats voting for the top of the ticket outnumbered Republicans by 535,000, yet Prop. 82 lost by almost a million votes — that’s a lot of Democrats voting not to soak the rich “for the children.”

Perhaps the real lesson behind the loss of Propositions 81 and 82 is that the people of California, with nothing but enlightened self-interest to guide them, are rejecting both tax-and-spend as well as borrow-and-spend in a bid to restore some measure of fiscal sanity to the Pacific Coast.