Two-thirds wrong

Before our short attention span kicks in and we forget the excruciating last week of the longest session in California legislative history—wherein our state almost took a dive off the fiscal deep end because its leader couldn’t sign a budget—we at SN&R thought it time to repeat the obvious.

The process sucks. And it’s largely due to the two-thirds vote required for approval of the state budget.

Yes, folks, a long-ago amendment to the California Constitution, as altered slightly by voters in 1962, demands a two-thirds “supermajority” vote to pass our state budget. The idea of this 60-some-year-old mandate was to foster bipartisan compromise, but it never really worked. In recent times, it’s done the opposite of coaxing bipartisanship by giving Republican legislators in our Democrat-leaning state the ability to block budgets, shut down services, hold the state hostage year after year. It’s not coincidence that California is one of only three states who still require the two-thirds vote.

A simple majority of our legislators should determine priorities and draw up the state’s budget each year. Period. This last time around, the outcome would have resulted in a similar mix of spending cuts, tax hikes and borrowing. But the budget would have better reflected the state’s overall priorities, would not have tortured those who depend on state services (like the poor, sick and disabled), would not have left local governments and state employees out swinging in the breeze, and would not have included items that only benefit a small group of Republican legislators. Plus the whole thing would have been done with 100 days ago.

The importance of this reform can’t be overstated. We must eliminate the two-thirds voting requirement.