The Bee's readers, or at least those who comment on line, are in a foul mood about the May 19 ballot package, anyone connected to it and the Bee's commentary about both. Our editorial endorsement Sunday -- backing the spending limit/tax extension compromise and the suspension of ballot box budgeting from Props 10 and 63 while opposing the new funding guarantee for education -- has brought near universal online condemnation from readers who see it as an endorsement of a tax and spend status quo. My column on Steinberg showing leadership by backing a spending limit (and supporting changes to Prop. 63, which he authored) was similarly roasted. This despite the fact that our position is to the right of the Republican leadership in the Legislature, which supported the Prop. 98 revision as part of the package.
Some will say that these readers have blinders on, don't care about the facts and represent such a tiny portion of the potential electorate that they can and should be ignored. I am not so sure. I have a hunch that most people out there have no idea how the spending limit would work and what effect it would have had in reducing deficits had it been in place over the past 10 years.
Linking the tax increases and the spending limit made perfect sense in the Capitol, and it was the only way to get a compromise done. But it might backfire if the campaign in support of the package does not figure out a way to explain it, or a good way to build support for the package without explaining it.
Dan Schnur suggests scaring people into voting yes. I don't like that idea, and I don't think it would work. I am picturing gauzy endorsements from teachers, cops, firefighters and business owners saying it's about time the warring parties put down their weapons and agreed to a common sense solution to start fixing the budget. Let's back this effort and put something into the constitution to make sure the politicians can't mess it all up again....