The Good Old Days of the Big 5 Budgets?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The state budget passed on time but does anyone long for the good old days of the dragged out budget debates? Remember the deal making to get some Republicans to join majority Democrats to reach the required two-thirds vote? OK, you don’t miss those days because no one enjoyed those drawn-out affairs with IOUs issued to state workers and public services delayed. Yet, by reducing the decision making from the Big 5 (governor, majority and minority leaders of both houses) to the one-party Big 3 (Governor, Assembly Speaker and Senate Pro-tem) something important has been lost in missing hearings and debates over budget priorities.

Listen to Republicans left out of the budget process. Senate Budget Committee Vice-chairman Jim Nielsen complained about cancelled public hearings. “This is a manipulation of the budget process whereby the public and their representatives are completely shut out.” “This year’s mismanagement of the committee hearings is done by design – to keep the public in the dark.”

Senator John Moorlach reacted to Gov. Brown’s announcement that he had reached an agreement on the budget with the speaker and the pro tem with a fair question: “Would somebody explain why I am even here and why am I voting tonight on this “behind closed doors” agreement?”

There are good things in the budget, but that is not the point. The $200 billion state budget seemed to be crafted by three individuals directing their staffs. This was not the way state government was taught in school—or are the workings of state government even taught in school anymore?

Sure, under the Big 5 system came wheeling and dealing, which was also not mentioned in school overviews of the legislative process. But at least under the Big 5 system sections of the budget, the more controversial parts, got an airing before the public and the press. And, we didn’t have to deal with the sneaky and often underhanded process of budget trailer bills that include items that should be part of budget debates.

The Big 5 era was not exactly the Good Old Days but the current budget gamesmanship is not a good-government replacement.

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.