Pro & Con: Proposition 31 threatens education funding

October 31, 2012 

The issue: Proposition 31 would: Give local governments greater control in implementing state-funded programs, and funnel more sales and property taxes to local agencies; limit lawmakers’ ability to create or expand programs that would cost more than $25 million to implement.; Give governor more power to unilaterally cut spending during fiscal emergencies; Switch to a two-year budget cycle. Budgets are currently drawn up every year.

Click here to read a viewpoint in favor of Proposition 31 »

As Californians, we are born conservationists. We look around and see endless coastlines, soaring mountains and breathtaking lands that we have chosen to conserve for eternity. That’s why when someone chooses to threaten our land, water and natural resources, we band together across party lines and ideology to say no.

That fight is here today. Proposition 31 is an entirely unworkable series of changes to California’s budget and governance structure.

It contains elements that threaten our environment, public safety and public health, all while jeopardizing $200 million in education funding.

In response, we have formed a bipartisan statewide coalition in opposition. We represent law enforcement, education, public health and the conservation community. We are even joined by former members of the proponent’s organization, California Forward, including Republican Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, who resigned in protest over the measure.

On behalf of all of the opponents of Proposition 31, especially those who are focused on its environmental impacts, such as the California League of Conservation Voters, the California Coastal Commission and the Sierra Club, I ask you to vote no on Proposition 31.

Proposition 31 allows for local communities to preempt state and federal environmental laws and regulations that preserve many of our rights and protections. All 58 counties across California would be allowed to create their own Community Strategic Action Plan (CSAP), and circumvent existing laws with little recourse by the state and federal government.

We all rely on state laws that protect our safety through clean water, hazardous waste remediation and the California Coastal Protection Act. If Proposition 31 passes, local governments could override worker safety, public health or water quality laws. While local control is important on many issues, the potential costs of harming the environment, our water supply or even damaging public health are too great.

Proposition 31 also puts our treasured coastline at risk by weakening our ability to conserve the coast and our state’s wildlife. Environmental protections are a central part of our shared vision to preserve California’s natural beauty and to protect its role as an economic driver for tourism. This is precisely why the California Coastal Commission is also opposing this measure.

Proposition 31 contains spending caps and pay-asyou-go budgeting. While sounding good, these provisions will lead to a state budget that will be tied in knots for generations, just as our state’s population is aging and changing. It would require that anytime California needs funding for a vital program that exceeded $25 million, state officials would need to cut another program already in place, or increase taxes — even if the funds are available.

Proposition 31 calls for a dramatic expansion of the executive powers of the governor. It would eliminate some of the critical legislative checks and balances that ensure a robust public debate on important issues.

Please join me, the League of Women Voters, the California Farm Bureau and many others in opposing Proposition 31. Together, we can conserve our precious lands and protect our communities.

Wendy Mitchell is a member of the California Coastal Commission and serves on the board of the California League of Conservation Voters.

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