Commentary: A very mixed bag on propositions

This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.

When faced with a ballot measure that sounds like a good idea and doesn't appear to cost them anything, California voters will almost always fall for it. They've done it in past elections, and they did it Tuesday as well.

Of the 12 statewide propositions on the ballot, voters approved seven. Four of the measures approved – high-speed rail bonds, children's hospital bonds, veterans' housing bonds and a victims' rights initiative – will add tens of millions of dollars in new financial obligations to a state government already straining to pay its bills in the face of plummeting revenues.

California lawmakers, who are being called back into emergency session to deal with an $11 billion shortfall, will have to cut even deeper in future years because of the new spending voters approved on Tuesday.

Oh, well. It could have been worse. Fortunately, voters rejected two expensive criminal justice measures. Proposition 6 would have added new crimes and expanded penalties for old ones, increasing the state's already staggering prison costs. Proposition 5 would have required the state to spend $1 billion to expand treatment programs for drug offenders in prison, on parole or in the community. Voters said "no" to both.

Voters also wisely rejected propositions 7 and 10, two deeply flawed environmental initiatives. In TV ads full of blue skies and soaring music, proponents claimed the initiatives would expand renewable energy, fight global warming and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. In fact, both measures would have made it harder for the state to follow through on ambitious renewable energy efforts already in place. That's why the state's leading environmentalists opposed the measures.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.