The May 19 election offers California voters a couple of bad options in a terrible time.
On one hand, we can follow the lead of several chambers of commerce and other organizations and vote for ballot measures 1A to 1F. That may or may not mean the end of the state’s budget crisis and buy voters a couple of years before the structural imbalance of spending and taxes clogs up the system once again.
Or voters can reject the ballot measures, thereby sending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the legislature back to the drawing board to craft another unsafe and unsound solution to a problem that would better be addressed by blowing up the budget and starting over again.
This brings us to the first point of this editorial. California needs a substantial overhaul in the way it spends money and taxes people. It simply is not possible to continue year after year, attempting to muddle through one crisis after another.
Our bureaucracy is too bloated, our overhead costs are too high, our colleges and universities are a mess and we seem to have lost the go-to attitude that once was the hallmark of the Golden State.
Until a constitutional convention or broad-based group comes along to reform the state and its fiscal management, we will struggle along from crisis to crisis not fixing anything.
It’s tempting to urge voters to reject measures 1A to 1F and to glory in the chaos that follows in the hopes it will produce a real solution to the state’s problems. Alas, that is too much to hope for, not to mention risky, as some services — such as mental health — would see cutbacks.
Likewise, passage of the measures, or a couple of them, by any margin, will just put off another day of reckoning.
Our second point in writing this editorial is to encourage all businesses and their employees to vote on May 19. Turnout is expected to be extraordinarily low, which means your vote, whether in favor or against, can make a huge difference in what the next few years look like for California.
Your vote will shape the legacy of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. And it will set the stage for the next budget debate to come. Whether it is a few weeks away or in the next budget cycle, the problem will not go away.
The only way to get the budget under control is going to come about through real citizen engagement in the political process. Which means your vote on May 19 could be the first step in taking back the government of California.