Prop 1B and "What's the baseline?"
Original post made by Stacey, Amberwood/Wood Meadows, on May 5, 2009
Prop 98 guarantees that roughly 40% of CA's budget goes to education. Because of CA's economic woes, there's two different interpretations of the Prop 98 law in determining the actual amount that must legally go to education at a minimum. The legislature is saying "here's education's amount this year but we don't want to get sued if someone disagrees with our interpretation of the law so we'll put Prop 1B on the ballot".
The other interpretation results in a higher amount the State must legally give to education than what was actually given.
When we talk about cuts or losses, we have to understand what the cut is being made from. This is called the baseline. Understanding what the baseline is when someone says there's cuts is crucial to identifying if a statement is fact or spin.
Obviously, if education gets 40% of CA's budget and that budget is smaller than it was a year ago because of the economy, and if we say our baseline is what education got from CA last year then I think everyone would agree that there's been a cut to education. That's a fact.
But now what if someone suggests that the baseline is an amount that they think the State must give this year to education based upon their interpretation of Prop 98? They would call any amount less than that a cut. That is spin.
This kind of spin happens often in politics. For example, let's say for the sake of argument that $500 is spent on Medicare annually and future projected costs are $1000. So the baseline is $1000. If someone suggests holding down the rate of increase so that the future cost is $700, that's a "cut" of $300. Another politician suggest holding down the rate so that the future cost is $800. That politician's "cut" is only $200. The first guy will get accused of cutting Medicare even though the future costs are still higher than $500 and everyone will think the first guy is trying to do something bad! That's spin.
So this is what is happening with Prop 1B. Someone says that if Prop 1B doesn't pass, then CA is "cutting" education because the baseline they are using is from a different interpretation of Prop 98 than what the legislature is using. The truth is that there is no cut in relation to Prop 1B. If Prop 1B passes, education gets more money than they expected with the current State budget. If Prop 1B doesn't pass, education gets what they already are stuck with.
If Prop 1A doesn't pass, the legislature must go back to the drawing board and find somewhere else to cut. The only way more factual cuts can happen to education is if the entire amount of the State budget is less and we take 40% of that smaller number.
Seriously, this is why writing to your CA district rep is important. Let them know that you won't tolerate any more cuts to education if the State props don't pass. They need to make the cuts instead in the prison system by reforming CA's parole system for starters.