Ballot measure may ease passing state budget

May 7, 2010 7:13:56 PM PDT
Every year it seems, state lawmakers haggle over the budget to the point where they can't get it passed on time. That could change this November. You may get to vote on a ballot measure that would make it easier for lawmakers to get the budget approved.

More than a million Californians signed the voter initiative that might help stop late state budgets.

Backed by public employee unions, it would lower the threshold needed for lawmakers to approve a budget from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority.

Late budgets mean severe financial penalties.

"It holds legislators accountable for passing a budget on time by eliminating their pay and expenses permanently for every day the budget is late," Jai Sookprasert from the Majority Vote Budget Initiative said.

Almost every year, health centers teeter on closing and public schools can't plan their academic year because they don't get their funding on time.

One community college professor says his students suffer when services can't stay open.

"Students who are trying to find their way through the system can't access financial aid because there's no one to counsel them," community college professor Dennis Smith said.

Since Democrats currently are the majority and could easily pass budgets, Republicans would become irrelevant in the process and, therefore, oppose the initiative.

"Spending is already out of control in Sacramento. If we take away the only taxpayer protection that remains, it's only going to get worse. This would essentially give a blank check for them to continue spending more money than we take in," Assembly GOP Caucus Spokesman Seth Unger said.

But Democrats would still need Republicans to side with them on new revenues.

This initiative does not change the votes needed to raise your taxes. That still requires a two-thirds majority.

If enough signatures are valid, voters will have their say on the majority vote initiative this November. That won't help this budget year, though, which is already shaping up to be a late one.

Since January, "there have absolutely been no real negotiations towards a balanced budget," Unger said.

In the last 22 years, the state budget has been signed on time only four times.


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