Spending Limit Act Would Put State on Road to Fiscal Health

Over the past several weeks, ballot measures have been proposed or filed that would impose tens of billions of dollars in new or higher taxes on California families and small businesses. These proposals range from increasing the existing sales, income or business taxes to imposing a new tax on services.

Rather than reining in out-of-control spending, politicians and special interests promote new and higher taxes that will damage our economic recovery, kill jobs and ultimately will be paid by California consumers. Despite a massive tax hike in 2009, we continue to face billion-dollar deficits year after year, and it is clear that the only way to restore budget accountability is for voters to impose a reasonable spending limit on the politicians.

Since 2000, state spending has increased by $39 billion while our debt remains nearly $200 billion. Our unfunded government employee pension liability has been estimated to be $500 billion. Budgets rely on gimmicks and are out of balance as soon as they are signed. Yet our elected officials refuse to reform pensions and fail to prioritize spending. Instead, they threaten cuts to programs like law enforcement and schools unless voters approve massive tax increases.

Legislative leaders also look for ways to game the system to increase taxes with a simple majority vote, not the two-thirds vote threshold required by law. And just a few months ago, lawmakers pushed through a measure in the dead of night that delayed a public vote on a rainy day fund initiative by two years. The rainy day measure would have required our state government to establish a prudent reserve to carry us through tough times and would have helped put California back on the road to fiscal health.

Voters have repeatedly indicated they are not willing to send more money to Sacramento as long as spending is out of control and politicians refuse to reform the state’s budget and pension systems. Doing so would be a waste of money, as Illinois learned this year when a $7 billion tax increase went almost entirely to fund pension promises to government employees.

In 1979, voters approved Proposition 4, the original spending limit measure, by a 74 percent margin. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown supported it. Prop. 4, also called the Gann Initiative after its sponsor, Paul Gann, placed a spending limit on state and local governments for each year equal to the prior year’s spending with adjustments allowed for changes in population and the cost of living.

Since that time, the Gann Limit has been diluted to the point of ineffectiveness. The only way to control government spending, root out waste, pay off our debt, and protect taxpayers is to impose a reasonable spending limit that will force California politicians to once again live within our means and stop the unrestrained growth of government spending.

That’s why the California Taxpayers Association, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Small Business Action Committee have filed the “Government Spending Limit Act of 2012″ and intend to qualify it for the November 2012 general election ballot.

Provisions in the Spending Limit Act would limit annual state appropriations to the prior year’s level, adjusted for growth in the state’s personal income, require surplus revenue to first be spent on debt service, and strengthen the two-thirds vote requirement for legislative enactment of laws that authorize or raise taxes.

Tens of billions in tax increases, like those recently filed or proposed, will not solve our fiscal problems. In fact, they would simply enable our elected officials to continue irresponsible spending instead of making the tough decisions we need to get our budget balanced once and for all.

Voters deserve a choice. Do they prefer the status quo, where politicians increase spending, rack up debt and refuse to address the problems of our state? Or do they want Sacramento to end waste, prioritize spending and live within our means?

It is time for the people to force the state to do what responsible families are doing themselves: make tough decisions, spend only what they can afford and live within their means.

(Teresa Casazza is the President of the California Taxpayers’ Association. This article was also written by Jon Coupal and Joel Fox, and was originally posted on Fox & Hounds.)


  1. Lionell Griffith says

    You must be kidding. The proposal does not cut spending one cent nor control the growth of Government by one iota. I says to keep the spending at last years level adjusted for inflation and population growth. Government still grows without limit based upon a so called last year’s level that is multiples of what it should be. Inflation can be inflated and population growth can be grown all by the magic pen of the legislature. Then, when it is discovered those figures were larger than reality, they get to do it all over again.

    The ONLY way to get Government down to a proper size is to eliminate all Government activities not relevant for a proper governance. Stop the giving of a free lunch, free education, free health care, free this, and free that all paid for out of the pockets of those who work and actually EARN a living. Stop the requiring that the individual must ask and get permission to live and function even as he respects the rights of others. Start doing the ONLY thing Governments are supposed to do: protect individual rights. Once government goes outside that limit it violates individual rights and becomes a 900 lb thug who gets to do and take simply because it has a gun to enforce its whims.

    Individual rights matter. We the People have a RIGHT to be left alone to live our lives with out the interference of an army of parasites getting in our way and feeding off what little we produce in spite of them. We have a RIGHT to OUR individual lives, OUR individual liberty, and OUR individual pursuit of happiness. You, no matter how numerous nor how much so called due process you follow, have no right to violate or limit those rights.

    We, individually, have absolutely no undeniable obligation to do what we do not voluntarily choose to do. If you want to help someone with your time and wealth, do so because that is your choice. If I don’t want to, leave me and mine alone because that is MY choice. I don’t care if everyone else chooses to do so and thinks that gives them the right to force me to do the same. It is wrong. Theft or extortion by one or a million is still theft and extortion no matter how many pretty words are used to justify it.

  2. Unions, corruption DemocRAT Government in CA destroyed its Golden State . California is DEAD. Its new name is Mexifornia. They stolen money from hard working American people to give to illegal freeloaders & lazy freeloaders: school, housing, medicaid, food and more to buy their legal illegal votes. No wonder DumboCraps party controlled congress CA for many decades. They open border to courage illegals to come to Cali. to vote for them. California is communist marxit state. Very soon it will belong to Mexico when mexican become a majority in California.
    Wake up Americans! get our country back & get our Golden State back by get rid off Democrap party & Unions. Democraps, Liberalism = Communism = mental disorders.

  3. Lionell and Kimberly voice my sentiments and many others POed about what is happening to our once great state. The only solution as I see it is for California to go bankrupt. Pay off the bonds, and what’s left divvy up with the creditors.
    The bankruptcy judge to order all government pensions to be reduced to be of the same standards as
    the non government pensioners. All retire at 65 years except those occupations of physical demanding occupations such as police, etc.
    A initiatives calling for “open shop” state, union dues must be paid directly by the employee. Government unions are to be illegal. Strict enforcement of immigration laws. If 25 year illegal has be deported, so be it, sell his property, have a garage sale and GO! Live like a king in Mexico!

  4. Can’t see this happening! The liberals in Sacramento have never seen a spending bill they don’t support. Tax and spend is all they know.

    • The money is not there, and more taxes that the Governor is hoping for is not going to happen.
      So, Pegi, if it is “happenings” your seeking, other than sell your house if you can, have a garage sale and move out; do you have a solution?

      • I’d like to see a 10% across the board spending cut. Pensions need to be reconfigured. A balanced budget needs to follow with no new spending without cuts somewhere else. No federal mandates without the funding. Then talk to me about raising taxes because then I’ll know they’re serious about fixing the problem. As long as i”m dreaming, easing regulations on businesses might keep them here instead of Texas. Their tax money would be helpful.

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