Tag Archives: 2/3 vote

Kickin’ the Can with Prop 1A [UPDATED]

PhotobucketI am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

Building off of Dave’s post earlier today, and Robert’s from yesterday, it is clear that the Yes on 1A campaign is doing its best to marginalize any opposition as “hyper-left.”  From our friend, Yes on Prop 1A consultant Steven Maviglio:

“The public screams, ‘Do your job! Govern!’ Steinberg calmly replies, ‘We are governing; we have made difficult choices.'”

Which apparently the hyper-left, along with the hyper-right, doesn’t seem to get. Neither side wants to compromise. With (sic) is what Steinberg and Bass have done, and is what leadership is all about, particularly when there’s a 2/3 budget requirement handcuffing their ability to push progressive values. (CMR)

Look, I understand what it means to compromise. I’m all for reasonable compromise where it makes sense.  But compromise for compromise sake, well let’s say it’s hardly guaranteed to ensure a winner.  (Two words: Missouri Compromise.)  But if we are going to complain about the constraints that 2/3 has shackled upon us, as Steve does, how are we going to add yet another constraint on top of the ones we have now? We are trading additional long-term dysfunction for the right to kick the can a few years down the road.

Furthermore, the “rainy day fund” won’t even be there to help us in our next bust cycle. Prop 1A’s requirement that money taken from the slush rainy day fund go only to one-time expenditures.  What made the San Francisco rainy day fund so successful was the flexibility to protect vital services, as in the case of the city granting SFUSD $11 million to save 130 teaching jobs.  But Prop 1A offers none of that protection for Californians and the services that we want to remain viable.

Despite everything else that has been or will be said, the fact is that Prop 1A still does not impact the budget for the next two fiscal years. Nothing, nada, zip, zero. While the Yes campaign is trying to make this all one big package, perhaps they should take Robert’s advice and focus on Prop 1C. That’s where the real money is, without quite the same level of dysfunction. While the Republicans wanted to slash through Prop 63 mental health funds (1E) and Prop 10 first five funds (1D), the real prize for them is the “spending cap” (Mike Villines words, not mine) contained in Prop 1A. That’s why they tied the additional out year taxes to the passage of 1A.

Compromise isn’t itself a governing principle, and the support of generally progressive legislative leaders doesn’t ipso facto make it “progressive.” As former Sup. of Pub. Instr. Delaine Easton pointed out, Prop 1A will leave us in a hole that we will not be able to dig out of. That’s hardly a compromise that progressives are clamoring for.

UPDATE: One more thing that I missed in Steve’s post, that we see in the latest Yes on Prop 1A ad, and that we see in Arnold’s rhetoric, the doomsday scenario.  At least they’ve taken off Arnold’s phony $50 Billion number, but the message is still the same. Vote for this or your children will be out on the streets, which will be falling apart and full of busted water mains because we can’t fix them, and they will be harassed by arsonists who can run free because we have no police or firefighters. Boogah-Boogah!

Dave pointed out the sheer ridiculousness of this fear mongering, but as it appears to be a central aspect of the campaign, it’s worth mentioning again. And as I mentioned above, Prop 1A, the gooey center of dysfunction in this tootsie pop, contributes not one dime in the next two years.  

Play doomsday all you want, but what does it have to do with Prop 1A? If they were so concerned about doomsday why didn’t their latest ad even mention the measures that actually bring in cash this year? Prop 1A has nothing to do with whether your teacher of firefighter has a job next week, or next month or next year. But the doomsday theme is an attempt to tie the lot of the propositions together, despite the fact that Prop 1A would do nothing to avert layoffs in the short-term, and over the long-term threatens to throw a wrench in how we provide services in California for decades.

Of course, it’s sheer cynicism, as Prop 1A has absolutely nothing to do with Props 1C, 1D, and 1E. Like the Governor calling George Skelton and asking him to dumb down the propositions for the people of California, this doomsday line demands that Californians cast an unquestioning eye upon these measures and take the Governor at his word. But given his track record, why should the people of California trust him or his fuzzy math?

At the heart of the matter: the broken system

I am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

One of the reasons that I oppose Prop 1A, and to a lesser extent the other measures, is the sense that it is one more thing that we’ll have to fix. It is one more layer of dysfunction on our staked seven layer dip of dysfunction. But as a practical matter, it is critical that Californians understand the structural dysfunction that is at the heart of the mess:

A defeat of six of the seven measures on the May 19 special election ballot – a good possibility, according to recent polls – could mean a return to the Capitol’s pattern of futile negotiations between Democrats, who hold large legislative majorities but little sway, and minority Republicans, who hold the last word on budgets.

If nothing else, political observers say, such a scenario could present an opening for Democrats to unmask what they believe to be the heart of the Legislature’s dysfunction: the two-thirds vote in both houses to pass a budget, as required by the state constitution since 1937.

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California is one of only three states – alongside Rhode Island and Arkansas – to require a two-thirds vote on budgets. Only five states, including California, have a two-thirds requirement for taxes. (CoCo Times/MediaNews 5/3/09)

You know that, I know that, but at least according to the variety of polls we have seen since the marathon budget session, people forget quite quickly just exactly why we have this level of dysfunction.  They forget that the majority of California is getting mugged by an increasingly small minority that is doing its darndest just to maintain control of a third of the legislature.  Back in February we had majorities for overturning the budget 2/3 rule, and a close call for the tax rule. Now we’re looking at uphill slogs in both.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work to get both out of our Constitution. It was quite the subject at the CDP convention

Lowering that threshold to a simple majority is “the next big fight we need to win,” Treasurer Bill Lockyer said at the recent state Democratic Party convention, where delegates identified the two-thirds requirement as the most pressing issue among 117 they considered.

*   *   *

Strategists and party officials say that they expect to put the issue before voters on the November 2010 ballot, perhaps lending it extra profile during the gubernatorial campaign. (CoCo Times/MediaNews 5/3/09)

I think the 117 number comes from the number of resolutions, which was actually 119. (Trust me, I was there for the marathon meeting.) As for the most pressing, I’m guessing that came from the prioritization from the resolutions committee, but  that should be taken as the consensus of the convention. It is merely that all 20 voting members of the resolutions committee recognized that it should be prioritized. But the point is still well taken, it truly is the most pressing issue.

We’ve heard rumors of propositions to change the 2/3 majorities, but the only props on the Secretary of State’s website don’t appear to be from any institutional player and don’t go back to the simpler to explain majority vote, opting rather for the arbitrary 55% figure.  I don’t know who exactly will lead the charge against 2/3, but it needs to be a cohesive effort from the grassroots all the way to the top.

We simply cannot let this dysfunction continue.  And right along with that, we can’t add on to the dysfunction with Prop 1A. I understand the need to grab the $16 Billion that will come in two years from tax increases, however, make no mistake that the spending cap formulas contained in Prop 1A will haunt us for years, and will be with us far beyond the two years of the extended regressive taxes.

We need to repeal 2/3, and on May 19, we need to be careful that we don’t add one more item to our list of things we have to change.

A Slew of Structural Reform Proposals

Today, the Democratic Legislative Leaders proposed ACA 4, which would eliminate the 2/3 vote requirement for a budget passed before the Constitutionally mandated June 15 deadline. Check out Speaker Bass chatting about the plan; it’s got some stuff that we need, but there’s still a lot more to be done.

Some other proposals out there are SCA 5 by Loni Hancock, which would also eliminate the 2/3 budget requirement as well as changing the ability to put some votes into referendum and the effective dates on other bills.  Mimi Walters (R-OC) has SCA 1 to allow a simple majority for any budget that doesn’t exceed the previous year’s budget by 5%.

These are all piece meal measures.  The 2/3 vote for the budget is certainly important. It’s allowed the Republicans to hijack the budget to get at unrelated bills (see their attempts at attacking AB32’s carbon limits last year). In the good times, the budget vote is really the most important vote of the year.  Eliminating the 2/3 requirement would be a boon, especially when we have a Democratic governor.

However, in order to build a more perfect government, we need to look at more than just the budgetary vote.  As we’ve seen, we can’t do a whole lot with a majority budget vote if the majority doesn’t also control both the spending and the revenue sides of the equation.  Thus, the more powerful measure is one that ends both the 2/3 majority on the budget and the 2/3 majority on taxation.  As of right now, I don’t think such a measure has been filed.

But, there is another way: the Constitutional convention.  In fact, Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, and new State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Martinez have both filed resolutions calling for a constitutional convention. DeSaulnier’s is Senate Concurrent Resolution 3.  A convention would probably be our best chance to really get a government that works.

All of these will be pretty difficult to get out of the legislature.  We might be able to get some of compromise that looks something like Walters’ SCA 5, but real reform might take a bit longer to emerge from the Legislature.