East County News Service
July 1, 2010 (Sacramento) -- California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has certified Proposition 25, the Majority Vote Budget Initiative, for the November 2 statewide ballot. Supporters aim to help ensure that budgets get passed on time by allowing a simple majority to pass the budget (instead of the 2/3 vote required currently), hold legislators accountable when the budget is late, and reduce the influence of special interests. The measure would retain the constitutional requirement for a 2/3 vote to raise taxes.
“If passed, no longer will 14 legislators be able to hold up the budget to satisfy the desires of corporate interests. The Majority Vote Budget Initiative will end late budgets by allowing a simple majority to pass the budget and restores accountability to the process,” said Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers.
Hittleman added, “Year after year, the state budget is late and legislators are not held accountable.” The CFT president noted that the Legislature in June failed for the 23rd time in 24 years to submit a budget to the Governor by the June 15 constitutional deadline.
“We all know the problems with the budget process,” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. “Late budgets give special treatment to corporate special interests and leave regular Californians paying the costs with no way to hold anybody accountable. Late budgets also have unacceptable consequences. When last year’s budget was late, California issued 450,000 IOUs to state employees, and countless small businesses that depend on business from the state. Many of these businesses provide vital support for firefighters on the front lines battling wildfires. The IOUs cost taxpayers over 8 million dollars in interest payments alone. This initiative changes that broken budget process.”
At a recent program put on by the nonpartisan California Budget Project in Los Angeles, speakers revealed that more than $10 billion a year has been given away by the majority to obtain votes needed for passage of a budget in recent years. “It took $1.9 billion in corporate cuts to get one Republican vote on the budget last year. At a time when the Legislature is shredding social safety nets, $1.9 billion is more than was cut from higher education,” one panelist observed. Tuitions increased 32% last year alone, with more hikes in 2010.
Last August, another legislator, Abel Maldonado, insisted that the Legislature approve a ballot initiative to drastically change California’s primary election process as a condition for him casting the deciding vote on the state budget. Under the measure, which was passed by voters, candidates will no longer have to list their political party affiliation on the ballot and people of all parties will vote in a single nonpartisan primary election, with the top two vote getters advancing to a general election—which could mean two members of the same party in the run-off, with no options for voters in other parties.
Assembly Speaker John Perez likens the current situation in Sacramento to a “hostile takeover of a business by a minority,” adding “We are fighting for our future to preserve opportunities, opportunities to create new jobs…Nothing is more important than returning our budget to true democracy.”
State Controller John Chung stated recently that he was unable to pay Cal Grants due to a late budget. “I also had to hold up tax refunds,” he said.
The Majority Vote Budget Initiative would:
• Hold politicians accountable by requiring every member of the legislature to forfeit a day’s pay and expenses for every day the budget is late;
• Change the vote requirement to pass the state budget to a simple majority, which is currently the law in 47 other states;
• Retain the constitutional requirement for a 2/3 vote to raise taxes.
For more information on the California Budget Project, visit http://www.cbp.org/.
For more information on the Yes on the Majority Vote Budget Initiative visit www.EndBudgetGridlock.com.
The measure has drawn widespread support from educators, public employees, healthcare workers and others who have been negatively impacted by late budgets and by severe cuts in services. In recent years, gridlock in Sacramento has occurred, with the majority forced to make huge concessions to individual legislators’ pet projects to secure key votes for passage of a budget. Lengthy delays cost taxpayers money, proponents of the initiative argue.
Critics of the initiative on one hand have argued that the simple majority vote on a budget would take away power from the minority party, while on the other hand some critics have argued that the measure does not go far because it retains the two-thirds requirement to raise taxes.
A competing initiative that would have prevented the simple majority vote initiative from taking effect, and which claimed it would allow "hidden taxes" in the form of fees, failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.