Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Sunday, Sep. 25, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

The state constitution assumes that the governor and the Legislature will pass one state budget each year, and that’s the way it worked for many decades.

It’s been proposed from time to time that the state go on a two-year budget cycle that coincides with the Legislature’s biennial sessions, on the theory that it would result in more comprehensive and forward-looking fiscal plans.

However, the Capitol has been going the other direction in recent years as governors and lawmakers wrestle with chronic budget deficits. It’s been on roughly a five- to six-month budget cycle.

The Legislature passes a budget, but only by including off-the-books loans, questionable revenue estimates and accounting gimmicks. Within a few months, it falls apart and has to be reopened and “balanced” again with more of the same stuff, only to implode once again a few months later.

This year’s version of the budget game differed from those of the past only in that the six-month cycle was institutionalized.

After Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the Legislature’s first budget – thereby triggering a legislative salary cutoff under a new voter-approved law – a revised and supposedly balanced alternative was enacted.

It’s “supposedly” balanced because it hinges on a sudden and rather questionable assumption that the state would receive $4 billion in extra revenue.

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