Stop the gridlock

If you’ve lived in the state capital, you’ve come to know that summer just isn’t summer without a preposterous budget deadlock that ties up government. In fact, the California Legislature has deadlocked on the budget an abominable 22 times in the last 28 years. It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

It has to stop, and finally there’s a measure on the ballot—Proposition 56, the Budget Accountability Act—that, if passed on March 2, will go a long way toward ending the gridlock. If this measure passes, California will be able to pass a budget by a simple majority vote, i.e., a legislative vote of 55 percent instead of the current two-thirds majority. This proposition also would lower the threshold—from a two-thirds majority to 55 percent—for increasing state taxes.

We know, we know. Some people, such as members of the California Taxpayers League, believe that getting rid of the two-thirds-majority requirement will make it easier and more likely that legislators will raise taxes at the drop of a hat. The truth is that’s very unlikely. It hasn’t happened in the vast majority of states that now require a 55-percent majority. In fact, the two-thirds rule has resulted in bad budgets, has crippled our leaders’ ability to solve problems and ultimately has empowered the legislators who are least likely to accept needed compromise.

Proposition 56 has been a long time coming. If you want summer’s seasonal deadlock to become a joke of the past, we urge a yes vote on Proposition 56.

Oh, all right …

There is no doubt Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempt to save California from insolvency and financial ruin revolves chiefly around his duo of bipartisan measures—Propositions 57 and 58—set for the March 2 ballot.

Proposition 57 is the $15 billion bond measure that will bail the state out of its troubles temporarily and allow time for Schwarzenegger and the Legislature to enact a plan for long-term recovery. Proposition 58—which requires a balanced budget and a rainy-day reserve—is a companion piece to Proposition 57 that the governor calls the state’s “never again” vow. Each is connected inextricably to the other; both must pass, or neither can work.

We would like to think the Legislature could have solved California’s money crisis with reasoned cutbacks and by increasing the tax rate for super-high-income earners. But it does seem clear—at this time and with the state’s particular set of circumstances—that the governor and the Legislature have determined the $15 billion bond is the only road to a solution. Indeed, they have grouped behind it from both sides of the aisle.

Given the undeniable mandate for bipartisan change that swept Schwarzenegger into office, we’re willing to give his most crucial initiative the benefit of the doubt. We (reluctantly) recommend a yes vote on Propositions 57 and 58.