Proposition 31 would make some moderate reforms to the state’s budgeting process — reforms which some other states have figured out long ago.
- The first thing it would do is establish a two-year state budget cycle. Under present law, the Legislature must establish a balanced budget every year, which is time consuming and sometimes wasteful.
- It would prohibit the Legislature from creating expenditures of more than $25 million without identifying offsetting revenues.
- It would permit the governor to cut the budget unilaterally in times of emergency if the Legislature fails to act.
- It would require performance reviews of all state programs.
- It would require performance goals in state and local budgets.
- It would require publication of all bills at least three days prior to a vote by the Senate or the Assembly.
- It would give counties the power to alter state statutes or regulations related to spending unless the Legislature vetoes those changes within 60 days.
Although Prop. 31 would not fix all the state’s budget woes, it would have the effect of focusing Legislators on both the immediate and long-term effects of laws they pass.
As it is now, legislators know they can pass budget-related bills every year to reward their friends and punish their enemies. Prop. 31 would stretch that time. The result might be fewer bills, and less legislative mish-mash.
Prop. 31 also would make legislators identify sources of funding for any bill that spent more than $25 million that was not part of the two-year budget. That might prevent at least some overspending that can go on now.
One sure sign this might be an initiative worth passing is that the Sacramento establishment — legislators and lobbyists alike — hates it. They don’t want any limits put on their spending.