Budgets reflect the priorities and values of a state. Public dollars dedicated to schools, safe communities, healthy kids and well-maintained infrastructure demonstrate that a state is committed to creating a high quality of life for residents. California’s budget tells a whole different story. Because California has a two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget, a small group of partisan legislators can withhold their votes to extract concessions from the majority. As a result, California’s budget process ends up full of corporate loopholes, special favors and worker takeaways—not exactly a reflection of the values of the majority of working people in California.
California is only one of three states, including Rhode Island and Arkansas, that requires a two-thirds majority to pass a budget. The result has been gridlock, late budgets and backroom deals. In a 2008 budget deal, legislators took away the right of high tech workers to overtime in exchange for budget votes. It was an unprecedented move by legislators to demand a rollback of the rights of private sector workers as part of the budget. The money saved by gutting overtime for high tech workers won’t save the state any money, but it will save Silicon Valley technology companies a bundle in overtime pay to workers.
In the 2008 and 2009 budget negotiations, a deal was cut to get the required two-thirds vote that blew a massive hole in the state’s budget. The deal will significantly reduce the taxes that a small number of corporations pay, costing the state an estimated $2 billion a year. Once again, the budget “solution’ created an even bigger hole in the already tattered budget—all to get the votes needed to pass a budget.
It’s hard enough to craft a budget to meet the needs of Californians, but throw in the horse-trading to get the two-thirds vote and it’s close to impossible to complete a budget on time. Legislators have failed to pass an on-time budget for 23 years and each late budget hurts Californians. Vendors that supply the state with everything from food to toilet paper are owed millions by the state during budget impasses. State funded institutions, like childcare, community colleges, health clinics and schools try to scrape by as they wait for a budget deal so they can receive funds. Late budgets threaten to close down public works and infrastructure projects and put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, as the Treasurer issue bonds for those projects with no budget in place.
Proposition 25 offers a common sense solution to an ugly budget process. It would allow a simple majority of legislators to approve a budget—just like 47 other states already do—and it would keep the two-thirds requirement to raise taxes. Instead of haggling with the minority party to round up votes, legislators can have real debates about the budget priorities of the state. And if they can’t pass an on-time budget, then Legislators will share the pain of the public—their pay will be permanently forfeited every day after June 15th that the budget is delayed.
Proposition 25 will prevent our state budget from being held hostage by a small group of legislators with a long list of demands. It’s a common-sense measure to allow a simple majority of our elected officials to approve a budget. Prop 25 is good for California and it’s good for working people. To learn more and get involved, visit www.endbudgetgridlock.com.