Prop 25 would make it easier to pass a budget

October 14, 2010 7:16:39 PM PDT
Lawmakers in Sacramento earned a dubious distinction this year; they broke the record for the latest state budget ever. Some believe the way to end the gridlock is to lower the number of votes needed to pass a spending plan.

You can always count on California's budget to be late every year. But this year, lawmakers broke the record, finally approving a spending plan 100 days into the fiscal year. Democrats blame one thing -- the number of votes needed to pass a budget.

California is one of three states that require approval from 67 percent of the Legislature to pass a budget.

Proposition 25 lowers the votes needed to a simple majority.

Because Democrats are currently the majority party, they could pass a budget on their own without a single Republican vote.

"The beauty of this is this is strictly just for the budget, not tax increases, it still takes a two-thirds vote for a tax increase," Richard Temple of Yes on Proposition 25 said.

But critics say a simple majority budget eliminates taxpayer protections and gives Democrats a blank check.

"You would see a budget with a lot of revenue projections that are based on fantasyland, not based on reality," Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said.

Most California budgets that eventually get enacted, though, typically contain accounting gimmicks and rosy projections.

What a lower vote threshold would take away is Republicans' power to hold up the budget and demand unrelated things, like relaxed environmental regulations or looser labor laws.

"Because of the two-thirds majority, what do they extract from us? What do they extort from us at the end of each budget session?" St. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, asked.

"If you vote yes on 25, you're just empowering the same cast of characters that have driven California to the brink of bankruptcy," Coupal said.

Always caught in the middle of the squabbles are ordinary Californians who cannot get their state funding as long as there is a stalemate; people like college students waiting for Cal Grants, road crews whose projects are brought to a stand-still and medical staffers treating the poor.

"It becomes a struggle to week-in, week-out cough up thousands and thousands of dollars to keep this place open," Medical provider Jim MacDonald said.

Prop 25 penalizes lawmakers by docking their pay and per diem for every day the budget is late. They would never get it back. Because it took 100 days this year, politicians would have lost about $42,000 had the initiative been in place.


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