California budget: A sign that the Golden State is finally on the right track?
Several voter-approved propositions helped resolve the typical California budget dysfunction this year. With new reforms, a new budget, and fix-it Gov. Jerry Brown, the future of the Golden State could be brightening.
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Along with electing budget fix-it man Jerry Brown (D) governor in November, California voters acknowledged in the flurry of ballot initiatives that the political process was broken and needed radical overhaul.Skip to next paragraph
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"Voters of this state have recognized that the state has serious fiscal, economic, and other structural problems and are working down a long list of ways to solve them," says Mr. Baldassare.
Exhibit A for shaking up the old political order is the just-ended annual battle over the budget – and both political parties felt the effect.
Though Republican lawmakers managed to block additional tax revenues, Prop. 25 allowed majority Democrats to enact a budget without GOP input on where to whittle billions of dollars to erase a deficit, which they did on June 28.
As for Democrats, Governor Brown vetoed their first budget blueprint on June 15, saying it was full of accounting gimmicks. That meant another provision of Prop. 25 kicked in, and lawmakers had to forfeit their pay until they approved a balanced budget. In the end, that amounted to about $5,000 each.
Another event may offer even stronger evidence of the political changes afoot here. On June 10, the redistricting commission created in 2008 released its new maps.
Redistricting maps drawn by legislators in previous years had resulted in gerrymandered districts crafted primarily to keep incumbents safe. The result was that blue districts became bluer and red districts got redder – and legislators became more partisan in their attempts to appeal to their polarized political bases. The room for compromise and political middle ground became paper thin.
Now, the citizen commission has drawn tentative lines, and the state has two months to comment and tweak the new maps. In general, political analysts applaud the commission for making the districts more moderate.
In one instance, one district of low-income Latino neighborhoods east of downtown Los Angeles has been combined with portions of wealthy Beverly Hills, upsetting some leading African-American and Latino organizations.
"We just don't think the issues and concerns of these two different communities can be adequately addressed by the same leaders," says Rosalind Gold of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.
But some critics are being won over by the commission's work. A skeptical crowd at one gathering in San Francisco between the commission and local citizen groups was turned around by closer examination of the facts, says Zabrae Valentine, deputy director of California Forward, a nonpartisan public interest reform group.