The Success of Proposition 25 in California

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

Until 2011, California’s budget process followed a very unfortunate pattern. Democrats, who control the legislature, would propose the general outlines. California’s budget required a two-thirds supermajority to pass it in the legislature, however, which Democrats do not have. So any budget would need Republican support.

Republicans would then make a series of demands for their support, demands which Democrats would find unacceptable. The two sides would then be stuck at an impasse. This would last for months, until finally (long after the deadline) some type of compromise would pass. The whole process would then begin anew the next year.

In 2011 all this changed. California passed its first on-time budget since 2006. This budget was only the sixth budget in the last twenty years which has been on-time. The accomplishment is all the more substantial given that it happened in the middle of a recession. In the past, budgets passed before the new fiscal year only during the good times – when revenues were much higher than spending.

Proposition 25, which passed in 2010, is responsible for all this. The proposition did two things to improve the process. Firstly, it annuled the supermajority requirement. From now on, budgets only require a simple legislative majority to pass (like forty-seven other states). No longer can a small minority hold the budget hostage until they get what they want.

Secondly, the proposition permanently took away legislative salaries for every day that the budget was late. Previously pay had just been delayed, not permanently taken away.

This part of the proposition turned out to be a lot more important than anybody thought it would be. At first the clause had just been put in there as a way to sell the proposition to voters. But the threat of permanently losing one’s pay has turned out to be a very powerful incentive for state legislators to pass a budget.

All in all, Proposition 25 has turned out to be an enormous success.

Nevertheless, there is one more reform which California must enact. California still requires a two-thirds supermajority in order to raise taxes. Neither party has this supermajority, although the Democrats are coming close to it.

The problem with this stipulation is very similar with the problem that until this year assailed California’s budget; it enables a small minority to hold the popular majority hostage (by refusing to allow revenue increases) until the minority gets what they want. In 2011 this happened; Democrats were unable to get a single Republican to agree to new revenues. So the budget is composed entirely of spending cuts, especially to California’s university system. Why is your college tuition going up? Because California Republican legislators refuse to allow the budget to be balanced any other way.

Still, a very imperfect budget is much better than no budget at all. Proposition 25 deserves to be commended for accomplishing that.

 

 

Vote Yes on Proposition 25: Majority Vote to Pass a Budget

This is the fifth part of a series of posts giving recommendations on California’s propositions. This post recommends a “yes” vote on Proposition 25, which requires a majority vote in the legislature to pass a budget.

Proposition 26 will be the subject of the next post in this series.

The Structural Problems in California’s Budget Process…

Proposition 25 is the most important proposition being proposed this year. While Proposition 25 may not exactly ignite passion in the hearts of voters, it is far more important for California’s future than the much-debated Propositions 19 and 23.

To understand why this is so, one needs to take a look at the structure of California’s budget.

California’s budget is governed by a set of stringent regulations. Constitutionally, passage requires a two-thirds majority in the legislature. Proposition 13 mandates that tax increases also require a two-thirds majority in the legislature.

In both requirements, California is very much an exception. The general rule is that tax increases and budgets need only a majority vote. Several states, mostly in the West and South, require a supermajority for a tax increase. Only Arkansas and Rhode Island (an odd couple) mandate supermajority votes for budgets to pass.

No other state in the union, however, requires that both budgets and tax increases be passed with a supermajority.

A two-thirds majority for both tax increases and budget passage necessitates compromise between the two parties. Unfortunately, the ideological difference between Democrats and Republican is unusually wide in California. The Democratic Party in Mississippi is probably more conservative than many moderate Republicans on the national level, while the Republican Party in New York is probably more liberal than many moderate Democrats on the national level. In the Democratic stronghold of California, however, the Republican Party’s positions lie quite far to the right on the national spectrum.

Combined, these factors make passing a budget in California one of the hardest endeavors in American politics. Since 1980 – shortly after the two-thirds requirement for tax increases was instituted – California has passed an on-time budget a grand total of five times. Every budget is subject to torturous negotiations as state officials desperately attempt to reach the two-thirds supermajority requirement (imagine the chaos that would take place if the House of Representatives required a two-thirds vote to pass a budget!)

This has quite negative implications for the well-being of California. Constant budget fights have done bad damage to California’s image, hurting private investment and creating great uncertainty. Budget impasses hurt public sector workers and public services provided by the government.

And How Proposition 25 Solves One of Them

Proposition 25 ends the two-thirds requirement to pass a budget. This will make passing budgets substantially easier, and it constitutes one part of a plethora of necessary reforms in fixing California’s flawed budget system.

There are some that oppose Proposition 25, arguing that it constitutes a union-backed power grab for California’s Democratic Party – and that it therefore ought to be opposed.

It is true that Proposition 25 is funded by unions, and that it will benefit the Democratic Party in California (which has a majority in the legislature). But just because a proposition helps one party or another doesn’t mean that it deserves opposition. Getting more people to vote would probably help the Democratic Party, but nobody argues that higher voter turn-out is a bad thing because of that.

Moreover, there is an easy way for Republicans to stop Proposition 25 from benefiting Democrats: they can win elections, and take over the legislature. This is what happens in 47 other states and the federal government. It works much better than what happens in California.

Passing Proposition 25 will not end budget crises; even if passed, there will still be a number of problems with California’s budget. Tax increases will still require supermajority votes, for instance. California’s budget still relies too much on income taxes, which fall steeply during recessions, as a result of Proposition 13. Solving that problem necessitates a larger rainy day fund. Then there is reforming the broken proposition system itself.

But despite all this, Proposition 25 is a fundamental reform to California’s broken budget process. It constitutes a change that is vitally important for California’s future well-being – even if, horror of horrors, it happens to help the Democratic Party.

That is why I strongly, strongly recommend a “yes” vote on Proposition 25.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

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