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Passing state budget: two-thirds vs. majority

May 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
California is just one of three states in the country that requires a two-thirds vote to pass a budget. And as we have seen, that is often difficult to do. This November, voters could change that.More than a million Californians signed the voter initiative that might help stop late state budgets.

Backed by public employee unions, it would lower the threshold needed for lawmakers to approve a budget from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority.

Late budgets mean severe financial penalties.

"It holds legislators accountable for passing a budget on time by eliminating their pay and expenses permanently for every day the budget is late," said Jai Sookprasert, a spokesperson for the Majority Vote Budget Initiative.

Almost every year, health centers teeter on closing and public schools can't plan their academic year because they don't get their funding on time.

One community college professor says his students suffer when services can't stay open.

"Students who are trying to find their way through the system can't access financial aid because there's no one to counsel them," said community college professor Dennis Smith.

Since Democrats currently are the majority and could easily pass budgets, Republicans would become irrelevant in the process and, therefore, oppose the initiative.

"Spending is already out of control in Sacramento," said Seth Unger, Assembly GOP Caucus spokesman. "If we take away the only taxpayer protection that remains, it's only going to get worse. This would essentially give a blank check for them to continue spending more than we take in."

But Democrats would still need Republicans to side with them on new revenues.

This initiative does not change the votes needed to raise your taxes. That still requires a two-thirds majority.

If enough signatures are valid, voters will have their say on the majority vote initiative this November.

That won't help this budget year, though, which is already shaping up to be a late one.

When asked how many negotiations have been held since January, Unger replied, "There have absolutely been no real negotiations towards a balanced budget."

In the last 22 years, the state budget has been signed on time only four times.


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