Prop. 31 is a Trojan Horse for wealth redistribution

Sept. 27, 2012

By Wayne Lusvardi

Recently I was invited to be the “No on Proposition 31” speaker at a local election forum, which I reported on here.  My honorable conservative debate opponent expressed disbelief that Prop. 31 would end up with regional proxy governments around California that would require sharing tax revenues between wealthy and “disadvantaged” areas.

To help make my case, I cited Stanley Kurtz’s book, “How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities.”  The book explains the emerging social policy of using coerced revenue sharing to form hybrid regional governments for wealth distribution.

But even Kurtz’s book didn’t seem to convince many of those still seduced by the enticements in Prop. 31: a two-year state budget, a “pay-go” requirement for funding any new programs; performance budgeting; promised deregulation of laws identified by local government; authority for the governor to call a fiscal emergency and veto budget items; and the creation of “small is beautiful” regional governments.

The problem is that none of these promised reforms requires voter approval or the necessity of a state constitutional amendment, except one: the provision for the creation of Strategic Action Plans.  Strategic Action Plans is a term for regional government like the socialized European Union, not like county governments in the United States.

Prop. 31 would authorize the formation of SAP committees to undertake regional projects and programs.  A SAP would be run by a committee appointed by a group of local governments that wanted to run their own programs by their own rules.

Such committees would not be miniature legislatures that could pass their own laws, however.  They would still have to appeal to the union-controlled California Legislature to relax rules or pool revenues for joint programs.  This is where the Legislature would mandate that every local regional henhouse would have to include a fox.

To understand how Prop. 31 might work, look at California SBX2 1, the Water Quality, Flood Control, Water Storage, and Wildlife Preservation Act of 2008.  SB 1 repealed the Integrated Regional Water Management Planning Act of 2002.

SBX2 1 is a Mini-Prop. 31

SBX2 1 created a new layer of government for water management in California.  It authorized the California Department of Water Resources and the State Department of Health Services to serve as funding conduits to “regional water management groups.”  These groups would be composed of three or more local public agencies, two of which have to be water agencies.

It was coupled with funding from several water bonds passed by voters:

Proposition 50, the Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act of 2002. It provided $500 million to fund competitive grants out of a $3.44 billion total bond issue for regional water management groups that had an adopted water management plan.  It passed with 55.3 percent of votes.

Proposition 84, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality, and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006. It provided $1 billion out of a total $5.4 billion bond issue for water management planning and implementation. It passed with 53.8 percent of votes.

Proposition 1E, the Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006. It which provided $300 million out of a total $4.09 billion in bonds for storm water flood management.  It passed with 66.4 percent of votes.

The funding of “regional water management groups” is not done through a grant funding application.  Instead, the approval of the “composition of an Integrated Regional Water Management” region into the Department of Water Resources grant program is required.

Regional Water Management Groups

SBX2 1 provided a definition of a water management plan, a definition of an eligible region, and program guidelines.  This law defined a “regional water management group” as that having an adopted water management plan.  A water management group can participate by means of a joint powers authority agreement, a memorandum of understanding, or any other written agreement.

SBX2 1 specifically targeted revenue sharing with disadvantaged communities:

Section 10534: “[I]dentifies communities in the region and takes the water-related needs of those communities into consideration.”

Section 10541 (b): “To the extent feasible, each state agency shall provide outreach to disadvantage communities to promote access to and participation in meetings.”

Section 10541 (e, 6): “Identification and consideration of the water-related needs of disadvantaged communities in the area within the boundaries of the plan.”

Section 10541 (g, 12):  “The guidelines shall require an integrated regional water management plan include a public process and an opportunity to participate in plan development and implementation for:  disadvantaged community members and representatives, including environmental justice organizations, neighborhood councils, and social justice organization.”

Section 83002 (b, 10): “[T]he sum of fifty million dollars (shall be allocated) to the State Department of Public Health for grants to small community drinking water system infrastructure improvements and related action to meet safe drinking water standards.  First priority for these funds shall be given to disadvantaged or severely disadvantaged communities lacking resources to provide safe drinking water to residents.”

Section 83002 (B,II, c): “[T]he department shall allocate not less than 10 percent to facilitate and support the participation of disadvantaged communities in integrated regional water management planning.”

Regional water quality management groups could be said to be one of the reasons why five water bonds totaling $15.4 billion produced no new sources of water or reservoirs for water storage.  The goal of water bonds passed from 2000 to 2008 was wealth redistribution, not the redistribution of water from nature to fish, farmers and cities.

Stealth Prop. 31

Once widely disclosed, the above revenue sharing provisions certainly would set off a political firestorm.

Certainly, this wasn’t disclosed to the voters when the above-described water bonds were put on the ballot.

Nevertheless, SBX2 1 creates a moral hazard of providing an incentive for migration to rural areas, where there is no permitted, safe drinking water. It creates a de facto, “will serve,” water-on-demand requirement that runs against water conservation goals.  While Los Angeles suburbs are under surveillance by water police, rural migrant enclaves can demand water at the suburbs’ expense.

SBX2 1 is instructive to all those conservative communities that believe they can get environmental laws relaxed and welfare laws tightened in their region.  What SBX2 1 indicates is that the only laws that will be relaxed are zoning, subdivision, and public health laws to further the goals of “equity” and wealth distribution.

The message for suburbs is: if you want your public transit project or performance budgeting for welfare programs, you will have to accept brand new luxury “affordable” housing, or relaxed qualification rules for welfare. It would be the demise of “home rule” and rule by dictate from Sacramento. Many conservatives can’t seem to understand this realpolitik.

SBX2 1 indicates that, once enacted, Prop. 31’s “Strategic Action Plan” committees could be funded from a variety of revenue sources, including future state bond issues that have not yet even been conceived.

Kurtz writes that followers of Saul Alinsky’s radical political tactics

“pride themselves on finding unexpected ways to pressure politicos by researching obscure statutes and bureaucratic practices that nobody pays much attention to.  This is especially easy to do on the local level. Organizing cities and a few relatively impoverished ring suburbs also makes it possible to create a movement without even attempting to recruit more conservative rural and suburban voters…Starting locally gave Alinsky stealth when he wanted it and extracted maximum leverage from minimal organizational effort.”

It is not hysteria or speculation that Prop. 31 is a regional tax-sharing scheme.   If passed by the voters, Prop. 31 would be SBX2 1 on steroids.

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