When it comes to state budgets, it is usually the legislators who decide where all that money should be spent. However, San Francisco is now taking an initiative where taxpayers, that is to say the common voters, will be directly able to vote on portions of budget online.
This is an incredible idea and it has been practiced in many other countries in recent years. Since an average taxpayer is the one who is furnishing money for the state, and he is also the one who votes legislators into the parliament, he should be empowered with the right to decide how and where the budget gets spent.
For now, it seems that San Francisco will let each city district to vote on $100,000 of the budget. In this way, each city district will be able to decide the different portions of the budget. Although New York has utilized the notion of participatory budgeting, this initiative by SF is certainly on a larger scale and may set the example for all other U.S. states.
In Brazil, participatory budgeting has been around for quite a while. And it has been demonstrated over the years that often, common voters are far more adept at discerning what their real needs are, compared to experts and legislators.
One hopes that the same idea in San Francisco, if pulled off right, will be a very welcome change for the state. And such a success may inspire other states around U.S. to adopt to the same model, thus listening to the people’s actual voices.