California is ungovernable. The state’s annual budget charade might give one the impression that its governor and legislature are to blame. But in truth, it is out of their hands. Decades of “ballot-box budgeting,” where voters pass taxing and spending legislation by citizen initiative, has put more and more of the state’s budget out of the legislature’s control. While estimates vary, somewhere between seventy-seven and ninety percent of California’s general fund is “set in stone before the Legislature and governor even start negotiating.” With an increasingly small slice of the decision-making authority left to elected representatives, it is difficult to argue that California is still a representative democracy.

This fundamental change in California’s form of government did not happen overnight. Instead, with every election came a new set of initiatives that slowly and gradually set aside pieces of the general fund until there was nothing left. There was no one fatal blow to representative democracy in California; it suffered death by a thousand cuts...

 

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