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Lawsuit filed over Proposition 22

August 3, 2010 | 12:13 pm

Vote David McNew Getty Images It’s close to the end of lawsuit season at the secretary of state’s office: Partisans may seek to change language on the Nov. 2 ballot until Monday, when arguments, analyses and the rest of the official voting materials are sent to the printer.

A suit was filed Monday by backers of Proposition 22 -- a measure to stop state "raids" on local and transportation funds. The proponents, led by the California League of Cities, are unhappy with the way the impartial Legislative Analyst's Office is describing the financial impact of their measure.

"Despite the fact that Prop. 22 is the most significant ballot measure in recent memory protecting and stabilizing local government revenues, the fiscal impact statement fails to even include the phrase 'local government' once," the Yes on 22 campaign said in statement. "In fact, of the 58 words summarizing Proposition 22's fiscal impact, 51 words detail the impacts to the state. Only 7 words contain even an obtuse reference to local government revenues and, again, the phrase 'local government' is completely excluded."

Proposition 22 is a hybrid. It's the latest in a string of ballot measures to block the state from borrowing funds earmarked for transportation, and it also forces a type of "realignment" of finances by cutting off state access to local government funds. Such "stop the raid" measures are generally popular with voters, in part because it's easy for proponents to depict state government as a ravenous tax-and-spend machine that steals money from more responsible (ha!) local governments, and very difficult to explain the reality of the complex financial shell game that began in 1978 after Proposition 13 with the state's attempt to shield local governments from a sudden loss of property tax revenues.

The Times' editorial page has expressed some impatience with the penchant of transportation advocates to complain about state raids. Look here to see our argument that the true raiders are often the ones complaining about being raided.

The reform group California Forward is trying to negotiate a package that could bring at least some realignment and either (take your pick) forestall the need for Proposition 22 or pave the way for its passage. In fact, there are several measures on the Nov. 2 ballot that cover the same ground as the high-stakes negotiations, which by the way also include the substance talks over this year’s budget: Proposition 24 would end corporate tax breaks that were part of last year’s budget deal; Proposition 25 would allow budgets to be adopted by a majority of lawmakers instead of the current two-thirds; and Proposition 26 would impose a new two-thirds requirement for "state levies and charges" and other "fees" that currently require a majority vote. In other words, the state's perpetual budget deadlocks and its ballot-box budgeting habit have nearly merged into the ultimate California dysfunction: annual budgeting by voter initiative.

The period for the public to review ballot materials before they are deemed final runs through this weekend. You can view the whole thing here. The Proposition 22 analysis that prompted the lawsuit is here. For Proposition 22, here are the submitted title and summary, full text of the law, arguments in favor and arguments in opposition.

-- Robert Greene

Photo credit: David McNew / Getty Images

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