The guys over at Calbuzz did some insightful analysis on California Forward’s discussion of restricting fees as part of a compromise to reduce the state budget vote from two-thirds to majority.
There is a simple reason that members of the business community are demanding a higher vote requirement to pass certain fees in return for a majority vote budget. If the budget vote is reduced to a majority, and fees, which smell like taxes, look like taxes, and quack like taxes, can be levied at a majority vote, the door will be open to mischief.
The majority party, by a simple majority vote, could approve a budget and fund the budget with a series of fees that they claim have a nexus to services. For example, a fee could be raised on alcohol and fund health care because it would be argued excessive alcohol use could cause health problems.
As water flowing over land searches for the easiest route to travel, political nature would seek the easiest route to find new revenues. Agreeing to a majority vote budget without doing something about questionable fees will clear the path to revenue increases and those fees generally will fall on the business community. If a Democratic governor joins Democratic legislators in Sacramento after the next election, the chances are greater that could happen.
I still think the best way to solve the budget vote requirement is going Back to the Future. Re-adopt the plan that was in the California constitution from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s. In those days, the budget required a majority vote to pass if it increased 5% or less. If the budget increased more than 5% a two-thirds vote was necessary to pass. Such a plan would allow for natural government growth and cover inflation but would put up a roadblock to dramatic growth and spending increases.
However, simply approving a majority vote budget without considering fees would leave the back door open to allow raids on the taxpayers’ pockets through fees on business.