Thursday, May 7, 2009
The most recent polls show Propositions 1A-1E – the budget fix Sacramento lawmakers came up with in late February, when they approved a plan to balance the $42 billion deficit – failing at the ballot box. (Voters do, however, like 1F, which would prevent state officials from getting pay raises during deficit years.)
This, according to budget analysts, means the state will likely face a $15-$20 billion gap by June.
Santa Cruz County Tax Collector Fred Keeley, a former Central Coast Assemblyman whose group, California Forward, supports 1A-1F, says he doesn’t see voters changing their minds before the May 19 special election. (See Local Spin, pg. 15.)
“That’s unfortunate, because I think this deal – the February budget deal – is the best bad deal voters are likely to get,” he says. “And I think we’ve seen the last yes vote by a Republican for taxes for at least five years. The Republican spin on May 20 will be, ‘See, we told you the people didn’t want tax increases. See, we told you in this economy, voters want the government to be significantly downsized. See, we told you it’s a spending problem, not a revenue problem.’”
And then, he says, the Legislature will approve a majority budget – which won’t require two-thirds approval of the Assembly and the Senate – and send that spending plan to the Governor. Democrats tried this last December, approving a budget that raised revenue through “fees” instead of “taxes,” in an end run around the state’s two-thirds vote requirement to approve new taxes. At the time, Schwarzenegger vetoed the spending plan – but not on principal.
“I know those budgets are already being drafted in Sacramento,” Keeley says. “The governor vetoed it [last December]. He didn’t say, ‘I vetoed this because it’s a majority-only budget,’ so that has been read rather universally as, ‘The governor is open to signing a majority-vote budget.’”
If Schwarzenegger signs a majority-vote budget, taxpayer groups or Republicans will sue, and the state Supreme Court will decide. “On the California Forward side,” Keeley says, “all of this will build support for budget reform, which we hope to take to the ballot in 2010.”