California Forward?

The CBP will take a closer look at the proposals for changing California’s fiscal and governance practices released by California Forward in future blog posts and analyses. In the meantime, two provisions warrant mention. California Forward proposes to reduce the legislative vote requirement for passage of a state budget to a simple majority, while leaving the vote requirement for passage of tax increases intact. The CBP has historically argued, and continues to believe, that it is essential to reduce the vote requirements for both the spending and revenue side of the budget ledger. To change one, but not the other, will in our opinion result in budgets that are either balanced through cuts alone and/or no change in the current level of gridlock. We’d argue that delays in tough years are largely due to disagreement over how to pay for the budget, not over the appropriate level of spending per se. In this case, half a loaf may be worse than none.

Moreover, another of California Forward’s proposals would actually take away one of the few tools lawmakers have to raise revenues by majority vote. While the devil is in the details and we don’t have the details, California Forward would narrow the circumstances under which fees could be imposed by majority vote and subject more fees to the same two-thirds requirement that now applies to tax increases. Voters previously rejected an attempt to narrow the Legislature’s ability to impose fees in Proposition 37 of 2000. As we noted in our analysis of Proposition 37, the Legislature’s ability to impose fees by majority vote is already quite constrained and further changes would make it more difficult to use fees to mitigate the social or economic impact of products or activities.  A story in this morning’s Calbuzz examines how constraining the Legislature’s ability to impose fees became part of California Forward’s recommendations.

— Jean Ross

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