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The Only Question: How Will [INSERT NEWS] Impact Prop 30?

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Opinion: How Will [NEWS ITEM] Impact Prop 30?

Gas price photo Taken today at Chevron station in Arcadia at Huntington Dr. and First St.

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Proposition 30 is no longer a ballot initiative. It's an obsession.

Just read the papers and listen to the California political commentary. Almost all news is viewed through a Prop 30 prism.

For several days, California pundits have speculated: What will the spike in gas prices mean for Prop 30? There's also been Prop 30-related speculation about what GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's surge in the polls could mean for the measure.

This comes on top of months of similar speculation. What would the pension legislation that the state Legislature passed, and that Gov. Brown signed into law, mean for Prop 30? What would high-speed rail mean? What would the scandal in the state parks department mean?

Prop 30 is a big political conversation -- and Prop Zero has been a big part of it -- but this is tilting into the weird.

Prop 30 is simply not that important. It's a temporary -- emphasis on temporary -- increase in income taxes on wealthier folks and a small, also temporary, quarter-cent increase on sales taxes for everyone. It also includes some budget mumbo-jumbo and a new amendment that locks certain revenue streams for local governments into the state constitution.

But this isn't big stuff. Indeed, it's designed as a modest, nonthreatening measure -- nonthreatening enough to get passed. And, yes, while there are budget "trigger cuts" that are supposed to be pulled if Prop 30 fails, those cuts aren't in Prop 30 itself. They're part of the budget.

So it makes little sense to relate unrelated news to Prop 30. Then why is it happening? Because California is in crisis, and there are no bigger ideas in play right now to fix the system.

Prop 30, small as it is, is the biggest thing out there.

All of which offers another reason for the state to take on big, constitutional reform: If you're going to obsess, why not spend your energy worrying about something big?

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State 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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