Be Prepared for State Budget Stalemate

There is bad news, good news, and uncertain news on the California state budget stalemate.

You may recall that California is $26 billion in the hole for the coming fiscal year, about 30 percent of the proposed budget. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown wants the legislature to place on the ballot a proposal for voters to decide whether to extend three temporary tax increases for five years to close about half of the gap.

The rest would be achieved by spending cuts, a sizable portion of which the legislature enacted yesterday.

Now the rest of the news:

The bad news, for Governor Brown at least, is that so far he hasn't been able to gather enough votes in the legislature to place the issue on the ballot June 7th. The Governor believes that a public vote by that date would give the legislature time to complete the rest of the budget mess one way or another by June 30th, the end of the fiscal year.

To do that, two-thirds of the members must pass enabling legislation, but with all the Republicans opposed, Brown remains 2 votes shy in each house. No dice, for now.
The good news is that 5 Republican senators are in tedious negotiations with the governor. The even better news for those hoping to see an end to the stalemate is that the leaderships in each house have been working behind the scenes to help forge common ground between the governor and the Reform 5 (as they call themselves), particularly on pension reform and a state spending cap.

The uncertain news is that even if the Republicans in the Senate reach agreement with the governor, there's no guarantee that the same will happen with Assembly Republicans. Equally uncertain is what the voters will say if the issue even gets on the ballot, although a Field public opinion poll released yesterday shows strong support for continuing the temporary taxes--for now.

We know this much news: time is running out for all sides. The election can be pushed back to as late as June 28, which gives the legislature a little more time. If the proposed ballot issue never sees the light of day, California's next few years will turn incredibly dark.

For now, we wait for more news.


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