California budget: Voters approve measure to ease a chronic crisis
California budget woes are legendary. This year the state budget was 100 days late. Passage of Prop. 25 seeks to avoid future such crises by dropping a crippling two-thirds vote requirement.
Hoping to avert California’s annual rise into the national spotlight by being unable to pass its state budget on time, voters on Nov. 2 passed Prop. 25, erasing the Legislature’s crippling two-thirds vote requirement for passing a budget.Skip to next paragraph
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California had been one of just three states in the country with that two-thirds provision. The measure passed 54.8 percent to 45.2, and the Los Angeles Times called it “possibly the most important reform adopted at the ballot box in a generation.”
The state budget was a record 100 days late this year and last year issued IOUs to keep the government running. Now, as Jerry Brown returns for his second stint as governor, with an all-blue statehouse, California has the same requirement as 47 other states: a simple majority.
“It is a big story,” says Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, in Sacramento. She says that because any deviation from majority rule gives disproportionate power to the minority, the new provision will go a long way in ending the deadlock and stagnation that has long plagued California government, irritating residents and damaging the state’s reputation and creditworthiness.
“Prop. 25 will clearly make it easier for the majority party to pass a budget on time,” adds James Mayer, executive director of California Forward, an organization of business leaders created by five major foundations to transform state government through citizen-driven solutions.
Ms. O’Connor says the new law will help California overcome its reputation for having structural flaws rendering it “ungovernable.”
All this said, analysts are quick to add that California politicians will not be freed from avoiding lots of tough decisions.
“Passing Prop. 25 was not a trip to the Wizard of Oz. It will not endow our lawmakers with a heart, a brain, or courage,” says Jack Pitney, political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. In trying to close a $19.1 billion budget gap this year, Democrats held on to raise taxes, while Republicans dug in their heels attempting to dismantle the state’s welfare system.