California Meets Budget Deadline

By: - June 16, 2011 12:00 am

It is not uncommon for state lawmakers in California to bicker well into the summer and even the fall over how to address the state’s chronic money problems, sometimes missing their constitutionally mandated June 15 budget deadline by three months or more. On Wednesday (June 15), however, lawmakers sent Governor Jerry Brown an on-time spending plan for the first time in years.

The difference appears to have been two new voter-approved rules that could permanently change the state budget process.

One allows the Legislature to pass budgets by simple majority, rather than the two-thirds majority previously necessary. The other docks lawmakers’ pay for each day the budget is late. The carrot-and-stick combination this year allowed majority Democrats to pass a spending plan without Republican help, and to keep their own paychecks coming in the process.

As The Los Angeles Times reported , Democrats sent Brown a budget that closes an estimated $10 billion budget shortfall with a combination of taxes, spending cuts and one-time solutions that the paper says are old tricks in Sacramento: “ delaying the payment of billions in bills, skipping debt repayments and penciling in money that may not materialize.”

Though it is still uncertain whether Brown will accept the budget package as is – particularly since he had previously promised not to rely on budget tricks – legislative Democrats on Wednesday reveled at their new ability to pass a spending plan without rounding up support from the opposite party.

“Californians won’t get caught in another Republican hostage crisis,” the Democratic chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Bob Blumenfield, said Wednesday.

Even so, Democrats did not get the broader tax increases they were seeking this year, since any budget that includes new tax hikes still requires a two-thirds vote to pass and Republicans refused to allow that to happen.

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