02/05/2008 03:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Californians Should Vote No On Proposition 93

If you could spend $50 million of someone else's money to save your job, would you?

I suspect most people would answer "yes" to that. Actually, that's not true -- I suspect most people would say "Forget the job, can I just have the 50 million dollars?"

But this isn't just an amusing thought exercise, it is really happening today in California. The jobs in question are politicians' jobs. The $50 million (some estimate as high as $80 million) they're spending is tax money. And the only reason it is being spent -- in the midst of a state budget crisis, mind you -- is to secure the re-election of a few people in Sacramento.

This is why, if you are a California voter, you should vote "No" on Proposition 93. Because it's wrong. It's morally abhorrent, when the state is awash in red ink, to spend millions of dollars manipulating the system just so a few people can cling to power in the state government.

To understand what's going on, and where we are today, its necessary for a quick history of the California primary. California used to always hold a primary in June. Because of this, we were rarely important to the presidential race. So about a decade ago, we tried to modestly change that by moving our primary up to the beginning of March. The result was pretty much the same, because other states leapfrogged over us to even earlier spots on the calendar. So, in an extremely boneheaded moment, the politicians in Sacramento decided unanimously to move our primary... back to June again. This made no sense at all, since we were guaranteeing we would have no voice by voting in June, unless you look at it from the politicians' viewpoint.

Campaigns, after all, are expensive. Shorter campaigns are better because you don't have to spend as much. A late primary also meant you didn't have to announce your intent to run until later. A side benefit is that you can spend more time raising money than campaigning. That's how they see it, and that's why Republicans and Democrats alike unanimously moved our primary back to June.

Or was it? Did they have something else in mind when they changed it to June again? It appears so, because what happened next is why you should vote against Prop. 93, no matter what you feel about term limits.

Because when the Super Duper Tuesday feeding frenzy started, with almost half the states moving up their primaries to February 5th, California decided that it wanted in on the fun. So they moved their presidential primary up to today.

But here's where the card gets palmed while you're looking in another direction. Because if you'll notice, I said "presidential" primary. The primary for all state offices was kept in June. That's right, Californians will vote three times this year: today, for party presidential nominees; in June, for state office nominees; and in November for the general election. The reason they did it this way? Because of Proposition 93.

Prop. 93 tweaks the term limits law. On the face of it, it seems like a reasonable change -- instead of 14 years in the state legislature with limits on how long you spend in the Assembly or the Senate; Prop. 93 would cut the total time to 12 years, but allow it in either chamber. It doesn't sound like that bad an idea, and if it had come up for vote last year (in an "off year" election), I might have even voted for it. Because that would at least have been honest.

But because the term limits law as it stands now says that you can't run for an office that you aren't allowed to hold (by being term-limited out), the current politicians in Sacramento -- even if Prop. 93 passes -- wouldn't have been able to run for re-election one last time. Because it's on the same ballot. Or I should say "because it would have been" on the same ballot.

Because when California politicians don't like the rules, they change the rules to suit them better. Which is why we're having two primaries. The first, so Prop. 93 can pass, and the later one so the pols can run for the same office again. Since Prop. 93 changes the term-limits law, if it passes, then they'll be able to legally put their names on the second ballot.

Normally, I would just laugh and shake my head at such hijinks. I don't usually bother much with state government issues, preferring to focus on the national scene. But this just offends me so much that I have to take a stand.

Because a second primary is going to cost the state of California $50 million or more, just so politicians can keep their jobs. This is our tax money. Which makes it not just "wrong" but "criminal," since our state is facing a $14 billion deficit right now. Our Governator has suggested a ten percent cut across the boards to solve this crisis. Ten percent less for education, ten percent less health care money, closing dozens and dozens of state parks; in essence, ten percent less of everything the state government does.

This "experience" and "leadership," it should be noted, is why we're supposed to vote for Prop. 93 -- so that "experienced leaders" can run our government. And not only are we supposed to happily vote them back into office so they can make a worse mess of things, but we are the ones paying for the privilege by footing the bill for their sneaky two-primary scheme, to the tune of $50 million. While we're figuring out which teachers to fire, and which fire engines we don't need.

So I hope you'll join me today in telling these crooked politicians to go take a hike. The official "No on 93!" campaign has put up ads pointing out exactly which crooked politicians are behind this, and exactly how crooked they are. That's fine as far as it goes, but I kept waiting for the ads which said: "This is a waste of YOUR money! $50 million is TOO MUCH to pay for them to keep their jobs." But they never appeared. For the most part, the debate has focused on other aspects of the situation. Which is a mystery to me, because I think the money is the strongest reason to vote it down.

Like I said, if this had come up for a vote in an off year, I might have even supported it. But the sneaky, underhanded way that a few powerful men in Sacramento are manipulating the system to their benefit, and (most importantly) the absolute waste of so many of our tax dollars make it impossible for me to support now. Holding politicians' jobs hostage and demanding a ransom from the taxpayer is just not the right way to change term limits, in my opinion.

There isn't just one reason to vote "No" on Proposition 93. There are fifty million of them.


Chris Weigant blogs at: