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Election 2010: Proposition 25 and the Way California Spends Your Money

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There are a few things you can count on during a California budget impasse: Late nights, battles over spending cuts and taxes and Democrats railing against the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget:

This is then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez in August of 2007, angry that Republicans wouldn't vote for a Democratic budget:

Nunez: "These guys are still holding us hostage, and holding this budget hostage. Clearly this is something unconscionable."

This is Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg two years later:

Steinberg: "This is craziness.  There's no excuse to hold this state hostage."

And this is Steinberg this year after the record-late budget that lawmakers passed 100 days into the fiscal year:

Steinberg: "We govern in California as the majority party with one arm tied behind our backs."

Steinberg is a big fan of proposition 25, a constitutional amendment that would lower the threshold for passing a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. That means Democrats wouldn't need any Republican votes. 

Derek Cressman is with California Common Cause.  He argues the measure would ease the annual budget gridlock:

Cressman:  "I think we'll see budgets passed on time. I think people would still be unhappy that the budget wouldn't pay for everything we want it to pay for but at least we'd know who stands for the budget and who's opposed to it."

Cressman says Democrats would no longer have to offer incentives to moderate Republicans in exchange for their votes:

Cressman: "There are actually some democrats who don't like it because voters are going to be able to hold them accountable.  They're going to have to make some unpopular decisions in passing the budget that they're not going to be able to blame on republicans any more."

But Jon Coupal with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association says 25 won't eliminate the deal-making.  It'll just change venues:

Coupal"All the horse-trading will still go on but it will go on within the democratic caucus."

Coupal says 25 doesn't guarantee an on-time budget. And he thinks the measure is written so ambiguously that Democrats would also use it to increase taxes with a simple majority vote.  Coupal says accountability is not the issue:

Coupal: "Oh good, we can see the driver who's driving the bus off the cliff, bus is off the cliff, ruin the state, oh, at least we know who did it."

John Kabateck is with the National Federation of Independent Business.  His opposition to 25 is based in part on his belief that those long, partisan late-night arguments are actually good:

Kabateck: "The two-thirds vote requirement is one of the last best defenses to ensure that there is that healthy dialogue."

Prop 25 also contains a clause that says lawmakers permanently forfeit pay from June 15 until the date the budget is passed.  They've only met the June 15 deadline five times in 30 years.  But prop 25 doesn't say the budget has to be signed - and that is a much higher hurdle.  The latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows just under half of voters support the measure.

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