Pro & Con: Proposition 31 will create efficient government

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 opposing Proposition 31 »

Most students have summer jobs, and some of us work while taking classes. Either way, we have a budget to stick to. We are expected to be responsible for making smart choices with an eye to the future.

But state lawmakers seem to be telling students to do what they say, not what they do. All we hear about the state budget is the deep red ink, the mountain of excuses and scandal after scandal — including, most recently, the “discovery” of hundreds of millions of dollars of undisclosed special funds.

And while the State Parks department sits on extra cash that lawmakers didn’t know about, we’re the ones paying the price. We’ve had year after year of reduced classes and higher tuition, which translates into more time to graduate and higher student loan debt.

If the state can’t even tell us where the public’s money goes, how can we believe that these cuts are justified?

Sacramento is clearly broken. In November, we have a chance to fix California’s flawed budget process by voting yes on Proposition 31.

Proposition 31, or the Government Performance and Accountability Act, will prevent future budget disasters by requiring state and local governments to focus on results and per formance. Outcomes would be publicly reported, so people like you and me will know whether money is being well spent.

Proposition 31 also would shift some decision-making from state bureaucrats in Sacramento to local community governments, which, as Gov. Brown says, are “closer to the people” and more responsive to their needs.

Over the past 20 years, the state has invested more in a failing prison system and less in higher education. California now has one of the most expensive and least effective prison systems in the nation — and students have had to pay more in tuition.

Proposition 31 would put the spotlight on these sorts of decisions, require lawmakers to confront poorly performing programs and consider the long-term consequences of the choices they make to satisfy the special interests that fund their campaigns.

By implementing performance-based budgeting, increased transparency and more community problem solving, Proposition 31 will help prevent the messes we’ve seen with state finances and will give us the effective, efficient government we deserve.

While right now I look at these issues as a student, I am also thinking about the future. I want to be successful in the agricultural industry. I want to raise a family in a safe community with good schools. I want the same California Dream as my parents and their parents.

So whether you are a student or a parent, a business person or a public servant, we all would be better off with a government that is working for us — one that we are confident will spend tax dollars well and be honest about the results.

Help keep the California Dream alive. Join me in voting yes on Proposition 31.

Sam Mayer is a second-year student in the Bio-Resource and Agricultural Engineering Department at Cal Poly. He lives in San Luis Obispo.

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