Live by the Initiative...

Initiatives are a famously large part of the political process in California. Among other things, they have been the avenue to political power taken by ...
by | March 10, 2006

Initiatives are a famously large part of the political process in California. Among other things, they have been the avenue to political power taken by two prominent residents of the state -- Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rob Reiner. Both sponsored old initiatives that are coming under criticism just now.

A number of legislators -- including some Republicans -- are balking at the potential expense of Schwarzenegger's afterschool initiative, which voters approved back in 2002. The plan was to spend $500 million a year on afterschool programs, but only if the state budget was in the black.

As governor, Schwarzenegger is proud that improved revenues meant he could finally present a budget this year that was in surplus. But the legislature, and a lot of school districts, are worried about jump-starting a huge new program when the state is hardly out of the financial woods.

The legislature is considering a referendum that would ask voters in June to block the half-billion-dollar payment. That would be a big embarrassment to Schwarzenegger, for whom the original initiative was a great political benefit.

The state's Joint Legislative Audit Committee, meanwhile, voted unanimously to investigate Reiner for his use of funds stemming from his own pet initiative. Reiner sponsored a proposition back in 1998 that raised tobacco taxes to pay for child and health care. The legislative committee is concerned that Reiner used $23 million of taxpayer money borne out of that earlier initiative to promote still another initiative he's now touting to provide universal pre-school.

California legislators are cut out of the lawmaking process by the state's initiative industry. It's no wonder that they're quick to turn on initiatives they had no direct stake in.