Tuesday, September 16, 2008


California finally has a Budget

The minority in the State Legislature have won. They have forced the majority to give up, for the present year, any attempts to fix the structural deficit in the State's funding. Tax rates will remain the same, although some taxes will be collected sooner than in past years. Money will be borrowed from future money taken in by the lottery. Etc., etc., etc.

Democrats hope that next year the current recession will have recovered and more revenue will come in. Republicans are satisfied that they have taken a step toward achieving their goal of small government - government that isn't concerned with health care and education of the people of California. In their view of what ought to be, government shouldn't be involved in such things.

Budgeting in California has become expensive and inefficient. In order to get the minority to budge, the majority has to offer expensive concessions. In nearly all other States, a majority vote is sufficient to pass a budget and the process goes more smoothly, efficiently, and less expensively. The situation in California was brought on many years ago during the "Tax Revolt." The State constitution was amended to require 2/3 votes in the legislature for budgets and taxes. In addition, cities and counties could raise taxes only by obtaining approval of 2/3 of the voters at an election.

Opposition to tax increases is not new. There has always been a segment of the voting population which would vote against any tax increase whatever. My father used to refer to this segment as the "skin-flint vote," on the ground that people who voted that way didn't want to give up any of the services of government but simply didn't want to pay for them. The tax opponents or "skin-flints" took advantage of a crisis several years ago when the rapid increase in real estate was bringing about large annual increases in the property tax that residents had to pay on their homes. There was real fear of mass dispossession of home owners and tax sales on their homes. Leaders of the tax crusade or skin-flints took advantage of this fear to persuade the public to vote for their plan for super-majorities (i.e., 2/3 votes) for enacting budgets and taxes.

One attitude that I often adopt is that the People of California are getting what they deserve. They enacted this 2/3 voting requirement and are now experiencing the consequences of it. Another attitude is that this is a situation that must be changed. The people voted to require 2/3 votes for taxes and budgets. The people can vote to rescind the requirement and allow the Legislature to adopt budgets and taxes by a simple majority vote. This change will have to be done by initiative. A 2/3 vote is also required for the Legislature to place a referendum on the ballot to amend the constitution.

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