Is Mac Taylor on to something? The Legislative Analyst suggested yesterday that if the legislature and the governor can’t solve the budget problem, hand the mess off to the voters and let them clear it up. Taylor proposed an April special election to deal not only with the measures all ready qualified for voter approval but also to put some budget and tax questions on the ballot as well.

Last year’s budget resolution – if you can call it that without laughing – included provisions on borrowing against future lottery profits and creating a rainy day fund, which need voter approval.

In addition, Taylor suggested some of the budget and revenue items discussed by the legislature such as the recent tax increase proposals and redirecting money from previously passed initiatives also be put up for voter approval.

When you consider that four initiatives* would be altered under Taylor’s plan to help the general fund you realize that the voters are already making budget decisions.

So why not pass the buck to the people who pay the bills and receive the services? But just putting on the ballot proposals that a majority of the legislature decides are appropriate is not enough. If the voters are going to make important budget decisions maybe they should go all out and set the direction for the state.

For instance, if tax increases are going to be proposed, should there be alternative plans? Perhaps voters think a sales tax increase it best. Or maybe they think an income tax increase is the way to go; or a combination of the two at different rates. And, shouldn’t that be balanced with options for spending cuts? Should we give the voters multiple-choice options on the ballot?

Of course not. If the voters pick and choose from different ballot measures the result could be a firm direction for the state. More likely, however, we could end up with a patchwork of laws that will continue to tie us in knots.

But, at a minimum, if tax increase proposals are on the ballot a spending limit plan should also be offered up.

This discussion of throwing the tough decisions to the voters begs the question: Do we need a legislature — for more than the on-going soap opera entertainment value?

Taylor should be given credit for suggesting a creative way to break the gridlock in Sacramento. He is looking to solve the immediate short-term problem. But, it would be best if we sought the voters’ advice on long-term budget solutions. If the legislators and governor could come together and solve the problems they were elected to solve this discussion would not be necessary.

In the meantime, voters should think of themselves as reservists, ready to be called up and thrown into the budget battle.

*Propositions under discussion:

Prop 10 child development

Prop 99 anti-smoking initiative

Prop 63 mental health

Prop 49 after school programs