Everyone wants funding for schools and other essential services. So we're tempted to react to "sound bite" descriptions of the propositions we're asked to vote for or against on Election Day Nov. 6.
Prop. 30 is being "sold" as a temporary tax to benefit education. But sometimes things are not what they seem.
Unfortunately, Proposition 30 is a classic example of how laws get filled with small print clauses, because of political deal-making, that are not mentioned to voters but end up having outsized impacts on a variety of seemingly unrelated events.
Buried deep down in Prop. 30 is language that effectively repeals the long-standing (and much needed) California State Constitution's ban on unfunded state mandates. Under Prop. 30, the state will no longer be banned from requiring local and county governments to pay for unfunded state mandates without reimbursement with state funding for anything related to this proposition. Like my recent article on the state's erosion of local control and unfunded mandates under "Dillon's Rule," this is not the direction we should be going.
Unfunded mandates are laws passed by the state government that require local and county governments to carry out state programs (voted for in Sacramento) by spending city and county funds, and bear the entire financial burdens of all related administrative costs of doing so, without the State having to reimburse the cities and counties for those costs.
Programs such as state Housing and Community Development Affordable Housing Quotas, the Housing Element affordable housing building site lists (to receive special zoning bonuses and changes to higher density), the ABAG/MTC One Bay Area Plan and "high density housing near non-existent mass transit" schemes are typical examples of unfunded state mandates, that historically have only required a city or county to make their "best efforts."
With Prop 30 we have another piece of legislation exempting itself from that requirement.
It is unfortunate that back room political dealings have distorted the original intentions of Prop. 30. But a vote for Prop. 30 opens the door to increased financial burdens on our small Marin cities to pay for programs we don't want or need or have any real say in. It changes the rules on unfunded mandates, protections that have been in place in California and the entire country for decades (and for good reason).
I believe that the California State Constitution has it right. Unfunded mandates by state legislators should not be allowed to be imposed on our cities or counties. Prop. 30 is a subversion of the clear intentions of California and federal law prohibiting unfunded mandates. Prop. 30 is a step in the wrong direction and another step toward removing local control.