John G. Matsusaka is the president of the Initiatives and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California. Lock-in spending associated with ballot initiatives, according to Matsusaka, account for approximately $39.407 billion of the state’s nearly $110 billion budget, representing, at most, 33%.
Whether this is a large or small percentage is besides the point, he argues. The chief complaint with the initiative process is that it assaults the mechanisms of representative democracy by voters locking-in spending without the consent of the legislature. The Wall Street Journal reported on this very debate in an October 2009 article. Matsusaka plainly doesn’t find the argument convincing: he notes that $34 of the $39 billion locked-in come from a single ballot initiative, Proposition 98, which locked levels of K-12 funding which, he argues, would have likely remained similar regardless of Proposition 98.
Matsusaka shows polls comparing the attitudes of citizens of non-initiative states with those in initiative-states. The polls suggest citizens in initiative-states enjoy policies closer to their own opinions.