California: Majority Budgeting Ballot Initiative Falters

Let's say you're a rich California Democrat or the leader of a rich interest group that supports Democrats. You could spend your money ...
by | March 4, 2010
 

Let's say you're a rich California Democrat or the leader of a rich interest group that supports Democrats. You could spend your money on ads to attack Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Meg Whitman, in the hopes of electing a Democratic governor for the next four years.

Or, you could spend your money promoting a ballot measure to remove the requirement that budgets must pass the legislature with a two-thirds vote. That would empower the Democrats who control the California legislature to pass a budget (the most important thing they do) without Republican votes. As long as they could keep their majority, Democrats would have true control of the legislature, something they lack right now despite their numerical edge.

Strangely, California Democrats think they can come with $20 million in independent expenditures against Whitman, but the proposed ballot measure is struggling to raise $1.25 million, as the Mercury News reports:

Santa Cruz County Treasurer Fred Keeley, a onetime assemblyman, said Tuesday that unless California Forward raises hundreds of thousands more dollars by the end of the week, the reform group will be forced to put off a November ballot measure that seeks to make passing a state budget easier.

...

The group, though, needs $1.25 million by the end of the week to proceed with a signature drive to qualify the measure for the November ballot, Keeley said. As of the first of the year, the group had only raised $132,000, according to state filings, though "hundreds of thousands" has since come in, Keeley said.

I guess I can see why Democratic donors wouldn't be totally enthused with the ballot measure. It wouldn't change the two-thirds requirement for raising taxes, which is a big part of budgeting. Plus, even if they get it on the ballot, passing it will be an uphill fight.

Still, the two-thirds rule has been such a thorn in the side of Democrats that I would have expected a little more passion for the topic. Perhaps they think there's another option. Even if California Forward gives up on its initiative for this year (which could happen as soon as today), there's a chance that Democrats in the legislature could put the measure on the ballot. It's important to remember, however, that the requirement for the legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot is, yes, a two-thirds vote.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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