Prop. 25 intends to modify the State Legislature’s requirement to pass the annual state budget and budget-related legislation. Instead of relying on the current two-thirds majority vote (67 percent), the proposition will implement a simple majority vote (51 percent) to pass the budget and similar spending bills. It also proposes permanently withholding all financial compensation and expense reimbursement to Legislature members for every day they do not pass the budget by the June 15 deadline.
The proposition would not change the two-thirds vote requirement to pass any tax increases.
Prop. 25 proponents advocate that shifting to a simple majority vote would expedite the budget-passing process. “This is what causes the stalemate in Sacramento–that we have to have two-thirds votes to spend any money,” said Dr. Mattie C. Grant, former board of director member for the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of California, Los Angeles County. “That’s not right; majority should rule.”
Proponents also say legislators will have a personal motivation to pass the budget promptly, if they are financially penalized for not meeting the deadline.
Opponents do not think that forcing Legislature members to forfeit their salaries will be enough to pass sound budgets. “The way the initiative is written, lawmakers could send a phony budget to the governor, knowing that it will not be signed, and that would be enough for them to qualify for their full pay and fringe benefits,” said David Kline of the California Taxpayers Association.
Additionally, opponents argue Prop. 25 does not guarantee that a realistic budget will come to fruition. They say other factors aside from the two-thirds vote requirement–such as economic conditions, the State Legislature’s party composition and incoming tax revenues–affect the budget-passing process.
Yet proponents view Prop. 25 as a much-needed attempt at fixing a broken system. “To defend the current status quo fails the test,” said Zack Kaldveer, spokesperson for the Consumer Federation of California. “If you want to see poor budgets and badly written budgets, look at the budgets that we get every year right now.”
In the past 30 years, the State Legislature has passed the budget by its deadline five times. On 18 occasions, the budget passed in July or August. In 2008, the state budget passed in mid-September, the latest the budget has ever been approved. California, Rhode Island and Arkansas are the only states that require a two-thirds or more votes.