Bloomberg Wanders Into Initiative Casablanca

Of all the broken budget systems in all the towns in all the world, he walks into mine.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn't Ingrid Bergman, the woman who wandered from Humphrey Bogart's past who walked into his bar in Casablanca. But here he is anyway, wading into California's budget nightmare.

Of course, that's certainly not the way Bloomberg thinks of his $500,000 donation to the Yes campaign in favor of Prop 29, a June ballot initiative to raise cigarette taxes to fund a host of new programs and trust devoted to cancer research.

As a political matter, this is helpful to Yes on 29, which is being badly outspent by tobacco companies funding the no side of the campaign.

That seems like a good cause, but, as documented previously at Prop Zero, this sort of ballot-box budget is part of what California's budget so difficult to manage, and the state so difficult to govern.

So even when you get behind a ballot initiative that supports a good cause in California, you may be making long-term budget trouble.

Bloomberg is also giving money to a campaign that is taking potential tax dollars off the table that might later be available to fund the state's broader needs.

So it's good to see you, Mike, and California appreciates your generosity. But maybe you really better get on that plane.

University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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