By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com The Sacramento Bee
Published: Monday, Oct. 11, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

It took nine months for the Capitol’s politicians to gestate a state budget, and it’s a progeny that even a mother wouldn’t love.

Like others of recent vintage, it’s “balanced” with pie-in-the-sky revenue assumptions, back-door borrowing and Enron-like accounting gimmicks.

Like its siblings, this budget is probably good for only a few months, just long enough for the state to float some short-term bank loans – and just long enough for Arnold Schwarzenegger, elected governor in 2003 on a pledge to end “crazy deficit spending,” to leave town and dump the mess on his successor.

So what’s the next stage? That depends largely on whether Democrat Jerry Brown or Republican Meg Whitman wins the governorship three weeks hence.

If it’s Whitman, look forward to more protracted budget battles, especially since state revenues are likely to drop by about $10 billion a year as temporary tax increases expire and the economy continues to wallow in recession.

Brown would face the same fiscal problem and has pledged not to raise taxes without a popular vote – a safe promise since Republicans would block tax increases in the Legislature anyway.

The only way around that block would depend not only on Brown’s election but passage of Proposition 25, reducing the legislative vote requirement for budgets from two-thirds to a simple majority.

As the 2010-11 budget falls apart and a newly inaugurated Gov. Brown contemplates big deficits in 2011-12 and beyond, he could call a special legislative session in which he and Democrats could, without Republican votes, pass new budgets based on new tax revenues requiring voter approval.

There is no direct provision for submitting tax measures to voters, but one obscure constitutional section allows the Legislature to place revisions to pre-existing statutory initiative measures on the ballot.

Through that loophole – one used in the past – new taxes could be placed on a special election ballot.

The special tax election would have to occur at least 90 days after the special legislative session ended, perhaps May 17 to coincide with Los Angeles municipal elections.

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