Special election begins to heat up

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A proposed California state spending cap initiative could change current funding guarantees given to education if passed in the Nov. 8 special election.

The “California Live within our Means Act,” or Proposition 76, is a key measure on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reform agenda. If passed, the proposition would amend California’s constitution, restructure the budget, and rearrange the way that education is funded.

The governor said Proposition 76 is a way for the California Legislature to live “by the same basic rules as California families: Don’t spend more than you bring in.” One of the ways this measure is going to address this concern is by dissolving Proposition 98, which established a guarantee of funding for education.

Voters passed Proposition 98 in 1988, and with it established a “minimum education-funding guarantee,” according to the proposition. The proposition also based spending on school attendance, and allowed for the suspension of the measure following a two-thirds vote by the Legislature.

James David Ballard, CSUN Chapter president of the California Faculty Association, said that after so many cuts to education, Proposition 98 finally provided a steady stream of funding for education.

Bob Haueter, press deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, said that Antonovich supports Proposition 76 because it allows for more budgetary flexibility.

“A two-thirds vote to suspend Proposition 98 is very difficult, and it should be allowed with a simple majority,” Haueter said.

Proposition 76 would also create a shift of power from the legislative branch to the executive branch. If fiscal estimates show a 1.5 percent decline in revenue, the Legislature has 45 days to create a budget plan. After that the governor could unilaterally cut spending and the Legislature would not have the power to veto the decision.

Brendan Lloyd, a member of the CSUN Greens, said that he does agree with the idea of more flexibility, but with the current administration’s education track record, he does not feel comfortable with the transfer of power.

“With a more centralized authority, the governor has the ability to cut back on whatever he wants, and that’s scary,” Lloyd said.

Dorena Knepper, director of governmental affairs at CSUN, said the governor is already in debt with education.

“He promised to repay his $3 billion loan to Proposition 98 when the economy improved,” Knepper said. “Well, the economy improved, and the money still isn’t repaid.”

In early August, the state’s largest teachers union and state superintendent of public instruction Jack O’Connell sued Schwarzenegger in an attempt to restore $3.1 billion that they claimed was owed to public schools through Proposition 98.

Proposition 98 was suspended with the consent of educators, who allowed the suspension, so that the governor could balance the 2004-05 budget after taking office. The lawsuit claims that when revenue began to increase again, the missing funds were never restored.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, California’s nonpartisan fiscal and policy adviser, education accounts for 45 percent of the total California operating budget, which makes it a likely target for funding cuts.

“Proposition 98 holds education to a higher standard than health care and transportation,” Haueter said, “And those are also valid responsibilities the government has to fund.”

“Basically, do you want to allow the governor and the Legislature to do the job they were elected to do?” Haueter said. “In California we have the initiative process. Let’s use it.”

Connie Llanos can be reached at connie.llamos.600@csun.edu.