A bit of a disagreement between Rob Stutzman, a conservative political consultant, and Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign. Stutzman earlier praised the Initiative process as a way to prevent “blood from flowing in the streets” by letting voters vent. Jacobs takes umbrage, cites Proposition 8, and makes the case “direct democracy was never intended to pit the civil rights of one group against those of another. This is how you spark a revolution, not avoid one.”
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.
The New America Foundation, also known as “Joe Matthews”, launched this morning the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. Thus far, about two hours in, we’ve seen some commentary on Californian’s support of the ballot initiative by race, voter competence (with regards to understanding initiative language…they’re better at it than you think), and the nail-biting quest to dethrone serpentine from its lofty perch as the official State-Rock.