Last week, Senate Democrats voted for forty empty budget “spot” bills (bills without any content) so that they can quietly pass a budget later this summer without allowing time for public inspection. This is possible because of Proposition 25 (2010), which allows for budget-related bills enacted on a majority vote to take effect immediately. Since Democrats have a majority, they have repeatedly misused their power to manipulate the budget process and to circumvent the state constitution.
Senate Republicans requested that the final budget legislation should be in print for at least three days prior to a legislative vote when the budget is taken up in June. Democrats could not guarantee that level of transparency and public review for the state budget.
Given the power Legislative Democrats have to pass whatever state budget they want on a majority vote basis, it seems more than reasonable to allow three days for the people of California and all interested parties to review their plan and raise concerns. I’m disappointed that the Democrats could not firmly commit to that simple principle.
The Democrats rule both houses of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office. They have the power to pass any state budget plan they want regardless of Republican concerns, which makes this end run around a transparent process even more troublesome.
“For decades the Legislature’s rules have required each house to pass its own complete budget bill and have a Budget Conference Committee resolve the differences in public hearings,” said Senate Budget Committee Vice-Chair Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). “They create the rules and then they disregard them. It doesn’t make sense. There’s no reason the ruling party can’t present their complete budget plan for a vote. It’s an absolute shame that one of the Legislature’s most important responsibilities has devolved into partisan games that ultimately hurt the people of California.”
Proposition 25 requires passage of the state budget by June 15th or legislators will not get paid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t require that the budget be balanced or actually enacted. As a lawyer for state Controller John Chiang said in the Sacramento Superior Court: “You could take a piece of paper and write, ‘We estimate revenue will meet spending,’ and you could wrap it around a ham sandwich, and you could send it over to the governor, and you could call it a budget. And you could keep getting paid. But it’s still a ham sandwich.”
The people of California deserve the opportunity to see the budget, ham sandwich or not, before the Legislature votes on it.