by Tom Condit; this article was originally published in Partisan issue no. 27, printed April 2009.

Proposition 1A is being sold as a "spending cap," but cuts in vital services like health care will be written into the state constitution if it passes.

Prop 1A claims to let state spending rise according to population and inflation. But it uses ways of measuring those which dont allow for normal increases in state and local government costs.

This "Budget Stabilization Act" uses the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to measure inflation. This is a Bureau of Labor Statistics "shopping basket" of urban consumer costs like food, clothing, shoes, movie tickets, video rentals, vacations, etc. But the biggest costs to state and local governments are health care, education and maintenance of infrastructure, like roads and sewer systems.

Between 1990 and 2007, the CPI went up by 61%. But health care costs increased by 164%. If state and local government health care spending increases are limited to the amount the CPI increases, they will have to cut health care services.

What if the costs of repairing our aging sewers, bridges and water systems go up faster than the CPI? Too bad, say our spending cappers, you should have thought of that 100 years ago and not built them in the first place.

Health care and transportation services are also affected by the way Prop 1A would measure population growth. First, they calculate how much money should go to the schools by the number of kids enrolled in K12 schools and community colleges. Then they subtract that from the total population to determine how many people need other government services, and only allow spending to grow with that number.

But some people have more need for certain services. By 2020, the total population of California is projected to be 29.4% more than in 2000. But the number of people over 65 will grow by 75.4%. Those people need more health care than younger people. Many will need public transportation to get around when they cant or shouldn't drive. Prop 1A will stop the necessary growth in health services and public transportation.

Of course, health care costs wouldn't rise as fast if we had a "single-payer" government-funded health care system. Prop 1A would tie up spending so that creating one would be impossible.

Tom Condit is active in the Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party.

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