At a time when so much economic news is bad, it’s nice to know that San Francisco is thriving. Anyone passing by one of the city’s tourist attractions will hear the sound of conversations in a multitude of languages. Tourism is growing, tax revenues are growing, yet still Mayor Newsom faces a challenge in bringing forward a balanced budget. How can this be? There are several reasons, but one of them is the voters habit of passing ballot measures that set aside funds for specific projects. Voters have passed measures requiring certain amounts be spent on Muni, children’s services, and other highly valued city expenditures. The voters’ sentiments in passing these measures reflects their feelings that we need to continue to support public transit and children’s services, but perhaps we don’t go about it the right way. The League of Women Voters takes the position that money for specific services should not be permanent set-asides that prevent government officials from exercises judgment about spending when conditions change. Revenues go up and down with economic cycles, sudden disasters can completely wreck a budget and require unforeseen expenditures. The government has to have the power to allocate resources to meet needs as they arise. As voters, we may recommend policies and certainly express our views about which expenditures should be highest priority, but we only cause trouble when we set rigid rules about exact expenditures. Let’s have a little common sense about ballot measures.
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