The state Legislative Analyst’s Office on Tuesday lambasted one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s highest-profile proposals for the year: a constitutional amendment that would require California, starting in 2014, to dedicate no more than 7% of its general fund spending to prisons and at least 10% to public universities.

“We urge the Legislature to reject this proposal because it (1) would unwisely constrain the state’s ability to allocate funding where it is most needed each year; and (2) is unnecessary, as the state already has the ability to shift funding among programs without this constitutional amendment,” according to the LAO’s policy paper on the subject.

“The administration’s proposal implicitly suggests there is a linkage of crucial budgetary significance between these two specific program areas,” said the LAO policy paper. “This is not, however, what budgeting is about. Each year, the Legislature must make decisions among all programs, choosing as best as possible where the commitment of resources would be most beneficial.”

The analyst’s office noted that the proposed constitutional amendment could have an impact far beyond the targeted subject areas by creating a new formula to lock up even more of the state budget and denying flexibility to lawmakers who may wish to meet demands in other areas, such as social services, health care, the judiciary, or infrastructure.

“A constitutional provision imposing certain floors and ceilings on spending in different sectors would simply limit budget options, rather than permit new ones,” the LAO wrote.

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