Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

State Legislature Takes the Easy Way Out

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    NEWSLETTERS

    If anyone wants to know why the legislature has such low standing with public opinion, all he or she has to do is review the way the legislature enacted the budget for next year.

    Under the provisions of Proposition 25 enacted by the voters in 2010, the legislature must pass a budget by June 15 or lose pay every day thereafter until they complete the budget task.

    The proposition was passed because of the legislature's habit of bickering for as long as two or three months after June 15th deadline before enacting a budget, leaving the state hostage all the while. But Proposition 25 was designed to end that gridlock by changing the rules for passing a budget from an acrimonious absolute two-thirds requirement in each house to simple majorities.

    Fair enough.

    Still, this year, the legislature failed to live up to the spirit of Proposition 25. Yes, a Democratic majority passed a balanced budget of sorts, coming up with the number of dollars it expected to collect (assuming passage by the voters of the Governor's temporary tax increases in November) and spend. But the legislature and governor could not agree on critical areas of proposed cuts.

    But bearing in mind the June 15 deadline, they passed a mostly-completed budget and declared the work done, subject to clean up, which senate president pro-stem Darrell Steinberg hopes to have done by the beginning of the new fiscal year next month.

    There's plenty of blame to go around for this sleight-of-hand approach to meeting the obligations of Proposition 25. For the Democrats, it shows the inability for like-minded people to agree on a document that has been in the works for months. Despite solid majorities in both houses, Democrats there and the Democratic

    Governor Jerry Brown can't find common ground. So much for majority rule.

    For the Republicans, their shame has a different source. For years the Republicans held the Democrats hostage, with just enough votes to prevent passage by the two-thirds requirement, leaving the majority party forced to trade all kinds of ridiculous concessions to get those last votes.

    Had the Republicans been reasonable enough to allow for some tax increases, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today and they wouldn't be on the outside looking in, now frozen out of the process because of the new simple majority rule.

    The bottom line is that Proposition 25 has only provided marginal improvement for the budget making process.

    Unless and until the voters change the legislature's tax capabilities to a simple majority, all sides wll continue to operate in a hobbled fashion, with an increasingly distrustful public scratching its collective head.