What it does
Proposition 1F would amend the state Constitution to deny elected officials a salary increase in any year that the budget is out of balance. It would direct the commission which sets the salaries of 132 elected state officials—120 of them legislators—to deny those officials salary increases if the budget reserve is expected to end the year in deficit. Currently, the Constitution only requires that the state adopt a budget that is in balance at the beginning of the fiscal year.
In 1990, voters directed that these elected officials’ salaries and most benefits be set by a commission (Prop. 112). By voter mandate (Prop. 140), legislators are prohibited from earning state retirement benefits.
The commission does not grant pay raises every year, and the increases are not always the same. Since 2000, there have been four increases, each equal to or less than the rate of inflation. The financial effect of Prop. 1F is not large. For example, if Prop. 1F prevented a three percent raise, the state would save less than $500,000 on a budget of $100 billion.
Why it is on the ballot
Another measure aimed at closing the state’s $42 billion budget gap, Proposition 1F was sponsored in the California Senate as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment by state senator Abel Maldonado.
- Prop. 1F will help bring fiscal responsibility on the state Legislature, by giving state legislators a personal financial incentive for keeping the budget balanced throughout the state’s fiscal year.
- Reducing legislators’ salaries when unexpected changes occur in state revenues or expenditures is not an effective way to balance the budget. In fact, creating uncertainty around legislators’ pay will make it even harder to attract quality candidates to the position. Moreover, candidates without other financial resources may be discouraged from running from running for office.
- The $116,000 annual salary of a legislator “is solidly middle-class compensation” considering average salaries in most regions of the state. This measure is a cynical effort to create symbolic change that actually accomplishes little.
We recognized that Prop. 1F is more symbolism than substance. On May 19, it is likely to be the best vote-getter of the budget balancing package, giving voters an outlet for their frustration with a Legislature that spent three months in ideological gridlock while the state sank towards bankruptcy.
Is a symbolic measure a worthy part of good government? Or is it just a silly steam valve for anger? We concluded that while Prop. 1F would have no effect on the Legislature, it would be a public indicator of disappointment with the its performance.
SPUR recommends a “Yes” vote on Proposition 1F.