Strange twists ahead in California budget battle as deadline nears
If there's no California budget by June 15, lawmakers will have to forfeit their pay. Five days earlier, the release of a new redistricting map could force many legislators to fight for their political lives. As budget crunch time approaches, the whole process is in flux.
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“Jerry Brown can’t afford to alienate the Democrats because they have the overwhelming majority in the legislature,” says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. “Governors have to work with the legislative majority: [Former Republican Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislature cooperated in 2006, and major bills were enacted.”Skip to next paragraph
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Proposition 25 could change the political calculus in the capital, however. The voter-approved initiative that docks politicians' pay was aimed at forcing the Legislature to avoid the long delays that have come to characterize the California budget process.
“Because of Prop. 25, it is a near certainty that the California legislature will pass a budget by the June 15 deadline,” suggests Mr. Stern. “The bigger question: What will be in the budget?"
Prop. 25 also allows the budget to pass with a simple majority (previously it had needed a two-thirds vote), so Democrats can pass a budget by themselves. But if they cannot get Republicans to raise revenues through taxes and don't make further cuts, they could run afoul of Brown's pledge to pass an honest budget.
What could change between now and June 15 is the new redistricting map, set to be released June 10.
“There are going to be legislators in both parties who now currently have relatively safe gerrymandered districts who are not going to be safe,” says Tony Quinn, co-editor of the California Target Book, a nonpartisan analysis of state and congressional elections. “And it’s not going to be an easy vote for Republicans or Democrats.”
The June 10 release makes the first projected budget vote, expected June 8, largely meaningless. Even after June 10, the Legislature might opt for a budget that falls short of Brown's standard.
“It will take the easy way out and continue to hope that the economy will improve sufficiently enough that pain can be avoided," Stern forecasts. "This is not unique to the California legislature; all legislative bodies are hoping for a recovery to make their lives easier.”