Prop. 25: Fewer votes to pass state budget

SACRAMENTO You can always count on California's budget to be late every year.

But this year, lawmakers broke the record, finally approving a spending plan 100 days into the fiscal year.

Democrats blame one thing: the number of votes needed to pass a budget.

California is one of three states that requires approval from 67 percent of the legislature to pass a budget.

/*Proposition 25*/ lowers the votes needed to a simple majority.

Because Democrats are currently the majority party, they could pass a budget on their own without a single Republican vote.

"The beauty of this is this is strictly just for the budget, not for tax increases," said Richard Temple, Yes on Proposition 25. "It still takes a two-thirds vote for a tax increase."

But critics say a simple majority budget eliminates taxpayer protections and gives Democrats a blank check.

"You would see a budget with a lot of revenue projections that are based on fantasyland, not based in reality," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Most California budgets that eventually get enacted, though, typically contain accounting gimmicks and rosy projections.

What a lower-vote threshold would take away Republican power to hold up the budget and demand unrelated things, like relaxed environmental regulations or looser labor laws.

"Because of the two-thirds majority, what do they extract from us? What do they extort from us at the end of each budget session?" said state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

"If you vote yes for 25, you're just empowering the same cast of characters that have driven California to the brink of bankruptcy," said Coupal.

Always caught in the middle of the squabbles are ordinary Californians who can't get their state funding as long as there's a stalemate, people like college students waiting for Cal Grants; road crews whose projects are brought to a standstill; and medical staffers treating the poor.

"It becomes a struggle to week-in and week-out cough up thousands and thousands of dollars to keep this place open," said Medi-Cal provider Jim MacDonald.

Proposition 25 penalizes lawmakers by docking their pay and per-diems for every day the budget is late. They would never get it back. Since it took 100 days this year, politicians would have lost about $42,000 had the initiative been in place.

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