2009-10 Budget Analysis Series: General Government

Secretary of State

Budget Does Not Fund the Cost of a 2009 Special Election

No Funds for Special Election Costs. As part of the 2008–09 budget agreement, the Legislature and Governor planned to use a 2009 special election to ask the state‘s voters (1) to authorize the borrowing of lottery funds to help balance the 2009–10 and 2010–11 budgets and (2) to strengthen existing balanced budget and reserve requirements. The administration’s 2009–10 budget proposes two additional ballot measures that would redirect a portion of Proposition 10 and Proposition 63 funds to the state’s general fund. The Governor seeks legislation to call the election on these measures for June 2009. While the revenues associated with the proposals are included in the administration’s budget, the costs of administering a special election are not.

Costs Split Between State and Counties. State costs associated with special elections include activities performed by the Secretary of State (SOS)—such as the printing and mailing of voter information guides and voter registration cards to county elections officers and any overtime costs associated with election night reporting. The SOS estimates its costs for the 2009 special election will range from $6 million to $11 million (General Fund)—depending on the number of ballot measures included. In addition, the costs of some activities county election officers engage in for special elections (as well as regular elections) are reimbursed by the state under current mandate law, such as for absentee ballots. Costs counties incur for operating polling places and counting ballots also have been reimbursed in the past, although the state is not obligated to reimburse counties for these special election costs under current law. Potentially reimbursable county costs for activities associated with a 2009 special election are estimated to be in the range of $50 million. Actual costs, however, would depend on whether local governments were already scheduled to hold an election on the day of the state special election.

Funding Recommendation. We recommend that, once the actual costs of the election are known, the Legislature appropriate sufficient funds to the SOS for state costs associated with the special election. County costs for the election likely will not be known until part way through the 2009–10 fiscal year. Once this amount is known, the Legislature will need to decide whether to reimburse counties for non–mandated costs.

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