The League of Women Voters of California has thrown its support to an
initiative designed to alleviate the legislative gridlock that has increasingly
bogged down the state budget process.
The LWVC board of directors has voted to support the Budget Accountability
Act, an initiative recently filed with the Attorney General that would
require a 55% vote of the State Senate and Assembly to adopt a state
budget and related tax legislation, rather than the two-thirds vote now
needed. The League has long held positions calling for a majority
vote on budget and finance issues, and we supported the recent ballot
measure that successfully reduced the vote requirement on local school
bond measures from two-thirds to 55%.
A two-thirds super majority requirement means that the vote of a legislator
opposing a measure counts for twice as much as that of one voting yes.
This has allowed a small minority to tie up the budget process for increasing
periods. Members of the majority, on the other hand, have been able to
avoid compromise by pointing to the minority's ability to stall the process.
The two-thirds requirement has most often been used not to try to reach
a broad consensus of the members, but simply for individual legislators
to extract concessions for their own districts or for their special interests.
The Act also includes several other provisions that meet public demands
for more accountability on the part of state government. These include:
- withhold salary and expenses from the Governor and legislators
if the budget is not passed and signed by the Constitutional deadline
- require the legislature to stay in session and not
act on other legislation until the budget is adopted, except in response
to an emergency declared by the Governor.
- provide for a "rainy day" reserve
fund of 5% to be established in good years to cushion the state
from severe cuts in a bad economy.
The Act would also require the state ballot pamphlet (Voter Information
Guide) that goes to voters at each election to contain a brief summary
of how the state spends the money it receives. In response to public dismay
at news reports that legislators were openly threatened and punished by
party leaders if they did not toe the party line on budget issues, the
Act calls for such actions to be the subject of investigation and possible
censure by Legislative Ethics Committees.
The Attorney General will prepare a title and summary for the proposed
initiative prior to the circulation of qualification petitions. The full
text of the initiative is available in two parts at the Attorney General's
Web site: Part
A and Part