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Election 2012: State Proposition Guide

Produced by KQED News and The California Report

Proposition 31

Revises the State Budget Process

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At a Glance

  • Proposition 31 establishes a two-year budget cycle instead of the current one-year budget cycle.
  • It permits the Governor to make unilateral budget cuts during fiscal emergencies if the Legislature does not act within 45 days.
  • It requires all bills in the California Senate or Assembly to be published three days prior to a vote.
  • Lawmakers must identify a funding source for new programs or tax deductions that would cost more than $25 million.
  • It requires performance reviews of all state and local programs, and sets performance goals for all state and local budgets.
  • It allows local governments to alter how some state laws and regulations apply to them, unless the legislature or state agency vetoes the changes.
  • Budget Impact: The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates the measure will cost millions to tens of millions of dollars annually. It would also transfer $200 million annually from the state to local governments.


  • This Proposition
  • Entire Guide

One thing most Californians seem to agree on is that state government should be transparent, accountable and fiscally responsible. Proposition 31 is a grab-bag attempt at all those reforms and more.

What Prop. 31 Changes

Establishes a two-year budget cycle. Beyond that it's complicated, so here are details:

Authorizes New Community Action Plans

This measure defines specific goals for the state budget and all local government budgets: increase employment, improve education, decrease poverty, decrease crime and improve health. It allows local governments to establish "Community Strategic Action Plans" to meet these goals, and requires that someone report on how programs are meeting them.

It allows local governments to alter how some state laws and regulations apply to them, unless the legislature or state agency vetoes the changes.

How Do You Pay for the Action Plans?

The measure allocates $200 million a year in sales tax revenue for local governments that have adopted Action Plans. Local governments could also transfer property taxes among themselves as they see fit. California taxpayers pay about $50 billion annually in property taxes.

Changes How Lawmakers Balance the State Budget

Legislators would have to identify a funding source for each new program, expanded program or tax cut that costs more than $25 million. Currently, lawmakers must balance the overall state budget, but do not have to identify specific offsets for each budget increase or cut.

Expands Governor's Budget Power

Currently, when the Governor declares a fiscal emergency, the Legislature has 45 days to address the revenue shortfalls. Under Prop. 31, if lawmakers fail to act the Governor could make unilateral budget cuts.

Bill Publishing

The measure would stop legislators from hijacking a bill at the last minute to include often-unrelated measures. Lawmakers could still gut a bill but they would have to publish all bills, including the budget, three days prior to a vote.

Arguments For and Against:

Supporters say...

the measure increases local control and imposes rigorous oversight of state and local budgets.

Proposition 31 was put forward and is largely funded by the political arm of the reform group California Forward. The California Republican Party also supports the measure, although some local branches are against it.

Opponents say...

new oversight requirements would cost millions to tens of millions of dollars annually. The measure also puts at risk state regulations meant to protect things like the public health or the environment by allowing local governments to alter these regulations.

Opponents include the California Democratic Party, California Federation of Teachers, California League of Conservation Voters, California Tax Reform Association and Health Access California. The East Bay Tea Party is also against the measure.