That didn’t take long. The bayonet in last November’s
Proposition 25 to cut Legislators’ pay in the
event of a late budget has been quietly re-sheathed. While proponents had insisted the measure "holds legislators
accountable for late budgets (and) ends budget gridlock," it is conceivable
that the budget standoff could continue well into the summer without any
consequence to lawmakers.

How could this be? Well, as proponents said at the
time, just read the initiative.

any year in which the budget bill is not passed by the Legislature by midnight
on June 15, there shall be no appropriation from the current budget or future
budget to pay any salary or reimbursement for travel or living expenses for
Members of the Legislature…"

The key phrase is, "not passed by the Legislature."
Note that the Constitution does not require that the bill be enacted, or be
signed by the Governor, or even presented to the Governor for his

This is the loophole that ate the budget. Because lo
and behold the Legislature has passed a budget bill that is languishing in the
Legislative purgatory called "enrollment," normally a procedural stopover en
route to the Governor. But in fact a bill may remain in enrollment indefinitely,
passed but not presented to the Governor, approved but somehow unavailable.

The joint rules of the Legislature require that enrolled bills be
"presented without delay to the Governor." But SB 69, the Budget Bill, has been on ice since it was passed by the Legislature on March
17. But should June 15 come and go without this or any other budget bill
approved by the Governor, the Legislature will still be eligible to receive its
salary and expenses on a regular basis.

On the other hand, even if the Legislature sets free
the budget bill and the Governor signs it, the state’s budget will still be
more than $13 billion out of whack, since the proposed tax extensions (or other
revenues or cuts) have not been approved. This could also be legally
problematic since Proposition 58, passed in 2004, prohibits the Legislature from
sending to the Governor, and the Governor from signing, "a budget bill that
would appropriate from the General Fund … a total amount that … exceeds General
Fund revenues."

Don’t be
surprised if the budget standoff slogs into the summer because Prop 25 will be
neither an impediment or a solution.