2010 forum modern direct democracy, ballot initiative, California, john g. Matsusaka, new america foundation
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.