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Prop 30 and Unfunded State Mandates

Prop 30 is not what it appears to be. If approved it will continue to erode local control by Marin cities and Marin County.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jennie Garthe October 28, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Question: If Prop 30 passes, will this potentially bankrupt the cities and towns in Marin because of the unfunded state mandates? Will these taxes really go to the schools or will it be more fuel for the general fund?
Jennie Garthe October 28, 2012 at 04:43 AM
(Continued---hit the submit button too fast) I am glad you wrote this article because from what I now undersand, the state is pulling on our heart strings for their greedy, clandestine plans. Where are all our tax dollars going anyway? Look what we pay in taxes and the schools still need money all the time!
George Gordon October 28, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Unfortunate but true. Back door life for ABAG, community development that is imposed but not voted on locally and a few other unwanted ideas waiting in the wings. We keep being asked to do the job of the legislature by asking us to vote on proposition that we have almost no information on to make a good decision. Sometimes I wonder why we pay these folks to do a job that we know they won't
Michael October 29, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Great article and I hope many potential voters read it. We simply must stop this insanity for allowing creation of unfunded liabilities. Prop 30 hides behind schools and kids which many non thinking voters view only emotionally. We simply can't allow this bad prop to pass. If people need more incentive to vote NO on Prop 30 I'd ask "when have you seen even one word written about solutions to our educational issued OTHER than throwing more money at it? When do you hear teachers or their union take ANY responsibility for the services they deliver and are paid for. Nothing about out of control spending on redundant layers of educational bureaucracy (example: why so many school districts in tiny Marin county?). Why do we still allow 'tenure' for teachers even for bad ones? Why do we offer separate retirement benefits for teachers (why aren't they simply a part of social security like their employers (us taxpayers!). You see they are trying to make us believe that if we dumb taxpayers just give them more of our hard earned money then everything will improve. History and facts tell us otherwise. Although they love to point out how poorly CA ranks among other states when it comes to education (the data they use should be suspect as it is coming from the costly and worthless Department of Education) the fail to tell you that in CA we spend more on education than any other state. I believe we must turn out focus on the educational system and money is only a part of this.
Bob Silvestri October 29, 2012 at 10:14 PM
To make things even worse, the funds from Prop 30 go into the state's general fund. With the size of our state's budget deficit, there are insufficient guarantees that these funds will ever be spent as intended.
Michael October 29, 2012 at 10:29 PM
I can't believe anyone would vote to increase our taxes in any way putting more money going into the general fund. Facts now tell us that the general fund has been mismanaged for a long long time. So how can anyone believe the same politicians who now say... "trust us". The real scary thing is how many people who vote actually believe the politician's lies. And Gov Brown is using only fear in an attempt to pass 30. "Either pass this or I will make cuts", nothing positive about using the money just fear. Well this is pure BS. Even a small fraction of the current wasteful spending by our legislature could solve a lot of problems. And Prop 38 is just as bad as it is filled with pork and zero accountability for the non money problems with our educational system. Just try reading the parts in Prop 38 about ECE (early childhood education). How did we ever get taxpayers to pay for the early care of children brought into this world by irresponsible adults who can't afford to take care of their own children? Yet we do nothing about holding the breeders responsible for their own rather some want us taxpayers to pay een more for this personal responsibility (taking care of your own children). Doesn't this make people angry with this waste?
Dave Robertson October 30, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Good point. I am not sure why we offer "retirement benefits" to most state and local government employees. What is so special there that warrants special treatment? No Social Security like everyone else, they get a good percentage of their salary for life instead of $1200 a month. I've said this before and I will say it again: why does California need so much income to operate? States like Marland and Virginia ask for less than 2/3 less than this state and get better results. Gov. Brown seems to thing we are still living in the 70's. We should learn from Europe that spending tons of money in the public sector just ends you up in the fiscal toilet. There is so much that people w ill tolerate paying.
Dave Robertson October 30, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Well, this is the trend in national government too. .... Get more money (by raising taxes on the "well off") and spend it from project A to Z. Just make everyone happy with free benefits and more government. What they do not realize is that taxing this way will not yield enough money to do anything, and it just injects a total air of uncertainty into the mix. We have had total uncertainty since 2008, and now they want to make things worse. Four years into a bad economy with very little of a good outlook. That's a great way to clean up this mess!
Nicholas Claymore Watter October 30, 2012 at 05:50 AM
Please cite your source. I have found no information about revenue from prop 30 going into the general fund except for some cherry picked quotes on the stopprop30.org website with I obviously cannot rely on for empirical evidence.
Bob Silvestri October 30, 2012 at 03:21 PM
A good question and the answer is not simple. My source is the wording of the legislation itself. As designed all funds collected go into the general fund but, yes, it's true, they are designated to be segregated by special accounting measures. After that how they are spent is governed by a previous proposition (Prop 98), which requires certain minimum amounts to be allocated to schools and education. In the words of the California State Legislative Analyst "a portion of the funding" would go to education, based on a Prop 98 calculation, which varies year to year. The goal is for 89% to go to education, but my wording was that there are "insufficient guarantees" (in my opinion) that this will always be true. The governor also retains powers to unilaterally cut state spending (that includes existing education programs) in times of financial emergency (not a clearly defined term). In short, I don't like the circular nature of the wording of this bill in the context of the other state laws that effect it. My main objection is the exemption from unfunded mandates.
Max Perrey November 01, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Thank you- very informative article! I agree that unfunded mandates are not productive and can harm our local cities. However, I strongly urge a YES vote on Prop 30 and here's why. CA has a revenue problem, not because of any radical increased spending, but because of the recession & housing crash. When the economy does poorly, tax revenue goes down & the demand for existing services goes up. What to do? Gov. Brown signed pension reform that raised the retirement age & capped pensions, legislator's cars were scrapped, some non-violent prisoners released cut. There's more to do, but it's a start. But what else has been cut- the University of California, by 20% (which is over 160% since 2003). This means that tuition (Felt no differently than a tax by students) has drastically increased while classes have been cut. If 30 fails, my tuition goes up. By $2400 this January. Period. Now, should we stop our fight to increase local control and cut waste in government? Of course not. But we should continue fighting the good fight, while also passing Prop 30 to prevent the cuts that would so severely damage our state & impact our students and families.
Bob Silvestri November 04, 2012 at 09:23 PM
The Best Laid Plans: Our Planning and Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin is now available in paperback. Expanding on the original Patch blog series, the book contains new chapters and information, and a Foreword by Dick Spotswood. On Amazon: The book qualifies for their "4 or 3" promotional price and SuperSaver free shipping (with a minimum order): http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/182-1618641-7088467?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+best+laid+plans%2Cbob+silvestri On Lulu: The book is offered at a 15% discounted price, for a limited time until Christmas: http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=the+best+laid+plans%2Cbob+silvestri&categoryId=100501
Rico November 05, 2012 at 02:53 AM
If Governor Brown would scrap the bullet train , the SoCal water diversion and the funding of private healthcare marketplaces, then we would not need 30 or 38. If you are a UC student, who is worried about what is really going on with taxes, you should stand up and do something about what these politicians and corporations are pulling off here in California. Action speaks louder than words, and MO taxes is not the answer. We have to stop the giveaways to special interests first.
Max Perrey November 05, 2012 at 04:50 AM
Thank you Bob for posting about your great in-depth research into our housing situation here in Marin. I agree Ricardo that there are areas we can cut- not building the peripheral canal being top on my list! But the fact remains that the legislature has passed two budgets: One if Prop 30 passes and one if it does not pass. And if it does not pass, the UC system will be dealt another cut that would correspond to an increase of $2400 per student effective January. This means another loan for far too many students throughout California, it will mean that college will become out of reach for too many. So let's get 30 passed and than we can work together to make sure that the money stays in higher education and is not spent on any boondoggles.
M. Calwald November 05, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Hi Max, You mean well, you really do. The problem is, we cannot continually tax ourselves and be sustainable. Our elected officials have been wasting our money. We need to send a message to Sacramento that "we are tired of politics as usual" (Obama's motto in 2008). The middle class is getting hit harder and harder. People are making less and everything is costing more. We cannot continue this continual abuse of our tax money and then have the politicians ask for more and more and more and more...
Scott November 05, 2012 at 05:53 AM
Max doesn't it concern you that the governors' lowest priority is education? I mean that's what he chooses to cut while leaving in place numerous worthless bureaucracies wasting taxpayers money by the billions? He doesn't need the money. He just wants it and is using education (police, fire, etc - always high profile items to pull at the heart strings) to get people like you to vote to give it to him.
Mark Schoenbaum November 05, 2012 at 06:03 AM
The state does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. No on 30, No on 38, No on 39, Yes on 32.
bucket November 05, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Max...I understand your passion. But, please understand we are facing automatic tax increases already come the first of the year. Even the lowest tax bracket goes from 10 to 15 percent of the their income and FICA withholdings go up as well. So to vote in yet another increase with any of the measures is to further the hardship. When folks are going without just to put food on the table, pay the rent and put cloths on their kids back it is hard to tolerate funding the college with even more dollars especially when we all can see how funds have been used in the past. We should be asking for an audit, and I do know of some of the salaries paid for administrators that is well over $200,000. a year and also get a $800. car allowance. Their union fights hard to keep this going and mainly funded the Brown's measure. Why aren't teachers and students attacking these salaries and asking for accountablity and fairness. Why do teachers who are on the front line make so much less than those that sit in a chair behind the walls of our students? There isn't a problem with how much they collect, there is a problem with how it is spent. When the tax payers see change with the current system then I think many more would get behind giving more. But, when you have a family making $40,000. a year being put in the position of being taxed even more, I think they have no choice but to vote no. Let's see $40K a year compared to $200K, hmmm, who should flex here?
Dave Robertson November 05, 2012 at 08:07 PM
People earning over $250K already pay A LOT! It's easy to say SOMEONE ELSE should shoulder the burden. It's about time you looked at what is on their shoulders. I will admit I am in the "over $250K" income range (but by no means a millionaire). I pay 32% to the IRS every year (remember the AMT), and about 9% to the state. That's 42%. Next year, if all goes as the Feds plan - income tax will go up another 4.5% (capital gains up 5% plus 3.8% Obamacare tax). That brings the over $250K's to the 46% range. If the state includes another 1-2% (3% if for over $1M), things go to 47-48%! Capital gains go to 20%(fed)+3.8%(obamacare)+9% (cal)+2%(cal surcharge) = 34.8%! Now is 35% reasonable to pay on money that has already been taxed once and then invested to earn money? Is 46% (or even higher) reasonable for someone making between $250K and $500K? No, it's not! Again, people love to spend OTHER people's money. If you were faced with those tax rates - you would be really angry. As soon as you go over $250K these days - you get seriously punished.
Dave Robertson November 05, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Now for what I was going to post. California has a spending problem. Putting it simply .... our property taxes are on par with almost every other state. Our income taxes are already among the highest. Why does California always need money when most states get by on much much less? It is likely the overpaid union employees and the government that cannot say no. Sorry, but if we cannot afford to pay for our schools, we don't need fast trains and everything else. This is liberalism at it's worst - a repeat of the national scene giving all this money away and spending a fortune. No one is accountable for it. I would be much happier about paying more tax in general if I knew far more of it wasn't being wasted because of pathetic overspending government. California is losing business as we speak. I wonder why?
Dave Robertson November 05, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
Dave Robertson November 05, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Sometimes you approach a line that you cannot cross. Insofar as spending in California is concerned, we are at that line - and have been for many years. Governor Brown could have done a lot more to decrease spending. But California is flawed because the governor cannot fight the interests that control him. I am really sorry if your tuition goes up, but the fight is bigger than that. California is a big, overweight, engorged pig when it comes to money. No other state spends like we can. That spending has got to stop!
Michael November 05, 2012 at 08:46 PM
BINGO! We simply can't allow any elected official to pass any legislation that will spend money we do not have... PERIOD. How we got so off base is through years of financial manipulations by our legislature passing spending after spending bills with no money source to back it up. Former failed legislative leaders like like Willie Brown are long gone and we are still feeling the ill effects of their irresponsible leadership when it comes to spending money we do not have. Of course Brown and others take zero responsibility for this and spin facts to meet their personal agendas. The only way to stop this insanity is to stop it cold in its tracks. We must not vote to approve sending any more (new) money to the legislature. ZERO! Brown and others are hoping that those voters who do not look at the real FACTS will vote emotionally for poor old EDUCATION. And do we hear anyone pointing the finger at the core problems with our educational system? No, it is just "give us more money and everything will be better". Meanwhile guys like Michael Allen are proud that he supports the boondoggle know as the High Speed Rail even thought we do not have the money to build it. Carpetbaggers like Allen (he simply moves from town to town looking for his next government job) continue to tell us "just trust us because we know what is best for YOUR future". See the problem we have?
Bob Silvestri November 05, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Michael Allen? I live in Mill Valley one block from my polling place at the Redwoods. Today Michael Allen's supporters put a flyer on my front door telling me to go to "Pleasant Valley School, 755 Sutro Avenue in Novato" to vote, indicating that this is "your polling place." Of course, they endorsed voting for Prop 30, against Prop 32, and for Michael Allen. So guess how I'm going to vote?
John Ferguson November 05, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Wrong - property taxes as a percent of assessed value or calculated as a percent of income are nowhere near as high here as they are in metro NY/NJ. We're at least 30% lower than metro NY/NJ.
Scott Yeager November 05, 2012 at 09:57 PM
You do know the people behind Prop 32 are against environmental regulation and affrodable housing? http://www.mercurynews.com/elections/ci_21737423/whos-who-rich-and-powerful-behind-proposition-32
Dave Robertson November 05, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Gee Whiz! Metro NY an NJ have extremely high police and fire costs - and high costs on about everything else. California has no such problems. Even LA is nothing when compared with the major urban density found on the east coast. To top that, our property tax rates may be higher, but our valuations are much, much higher. I grew up on the east coast and spent several years in the NY metro area. California is a completely different situation - likely why I and others have moved and lived here for years and years. I do pay MD And VA taxes also, and their rates top out at 7% and 6% respectively. California currently tops out over 9%. Now there is a lot going on in MD and VA. Why do they charge less?
Dave Robertson November 05, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Yes, spend other people's money on a train that we cannot afford, and threaten to destroy the education system if the revenue isn't collected. Look at Europe. The have so many trains underutilized or in progress, but they cannot pay their bills. Intelligent government (like intelligent people) learn from other people's mistakes. What kind of government do we have in California?
Bob Silvestri November 06, 2012 at 12:51 AM
The biggest political contributor / legislation funder / pac in California is the teacher's union with construction unions, police and firefighers and government employees unions close behind.
Mark Schoenbaum November 06, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Don't forget the prison guards union. Nothing like having the public employee unions making big campagn contributions to the elected officials they negotiate their contracts with. Why do you think that 32 scares them so?

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