Unlock state government

It’s time to end the supermajority requirement for passage of the budget

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t help the cause of compromise any when he stood in front of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles Monday (Dec. 22) and insisted that a state budget deal could be done in “half an hour,” if it weren’t for the influence that special interests have on the Legislature (read: Democrats).

This kind of pressure tactic is the opposite of negotiation, but it’s typical of the governor’s tone-deaf dealings with the Legislature since the day he arrived in Sacramento. As Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said in response, under such circumstances “it is hard to figure out how to convince the governor to accept a responsible compromise.”

Democrats have come up with a way to make an $18 billion dent right now in the state’s $40 billion budget deficit and keep state government operating. But Schwarzenegger said he would veto it because it did not contain sufficient economic stimulus or deep enough spending cuts.

In the meantime, the failure to solve the state’s budget problems has led the Pooled Money Investment Board to shut down $3.8 billion in financing for infrastructure projects throughout the state. Locally, these included everything from a $1 million grant to Catalyst and $2.3 million for various affordable-housing projects to some $2.5 million allocated to the Chico Unified School District for construction projects. As it stands, the funding is now frozen.

It should be clear by now that the state’s two-thirds supermajority requirement for passage of a budget is wreaking terrible havoc. The Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature and the governor are locked in tri-partite disagreement, unable to move, and everyone else is paying the price.

On Tuesday (Dec. 23), the Los Angeles Times called for an end to the supermajority requirement, editorializing that it makes California, “once the state of optimism and opportunity, the land of ‘no.’ “ With a simple majority rule, the governor would still have veto power, but crafting the budget would be much easier, as would negotiations between him and the legislative majority.

Only two other states—Arkansas and Rhode Island, neither of which has California’s complexity—require a supermajority. The rest seem to get along OK with a simple majority. It’s time to join them. But that will happen only if Californians insist on it.