California’s budget is a scam
Once again, the California Legislature has engaged in the most meaningless exercise imaginable – passing the state budget. In other states, where progressivism is less dominant, the annual budget is an important legislative act. In California, it means squat.
If the enactment of the annual budget is so pointless, why does the legislature even bother to pass it? The answer is simple. The Constitution requires the passage of a budget bill in order for members of the Legislature to receive their paychecks.
It wasn’t always this way. But in 2010, the legislature put Proposition 25 on the ballot. Entitled the “On-Time Budget Act of 2010,” its real purpose was to repeal the requirement that the budget bill receive a two-thirds vote of both houses. Knowing that voters are rightfully suspicious of lowering any vote threshold, the legislature voters sold the proposal by saying that, if they approved Prop 25, budgets would be passed on time, with greater transparency and that legislators would forfeit their pay if the budget was late. All three of these representations were lies.
The reality is that since Prop. 25 passed, California has no budget process. The “budget bill,” which is supposed to be a comprehensive spending plan for the fiscal year reflecting the policy priorities of the state, has now morphed into an ongoing legislative process that has no beginning and no end. “Budget bills” are now being enacted nearly a year after the June 15th deadline, despite legislators being able to collect their paychecks in the meantime.
After Proposition 25 became law, dozens of bills have been designated as “budget related” even though they have nothing to do with the budget, just to take advantage of Prop. 25’s easier rules for passing bills. Many bills that would otherwise require a two-thirds vote can suddenly become an “amendment” to a budget bill, and then they can be passed with only a simple majority. There’s no requirement for a hearing in the legislative committee that has jurisdiction over that area of policy, and the public has no opportunity to submit public comments or to question their representatives about their votes for the bill.
The process is now so scripted, it makes a Kabuki dance look like improvisational theater.
Longtime political writer Dan Walters labeled the 1,000-page budget “another sham, drafted largely in secret with minimal public exposure and many blanks to be filled in later.” Even the decidedly left-of-center Sacramento Bee succinctly summarized the state of play with this headline: “California Democrats passed a fake budget so they could get paid. Taxpayers have to wait.”
One party rule in California has resulted in the continuing slide toward a corrupt and dysfunctional legislative body. Regrettably, that institution has, for the last decade, enacted laws intended only to cement their control of the state, and the Prop. 25 scam is just one example. As more citizens and productive businesses move out-of-state to escape the insanity, those of us who remain must continue to fight for meaningful change.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.