By Dan Walters
Published: Friday, Feb. 17, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
One symptom of California’s political dysfunction is the ceaseless infighting among governmental entities over power and money, which are often synonymous.
Cities and counties joust with each other over shares of the property tax, they join forces to battle with the state government over its periodic raids on local government treasuries, while governors spar with the Legislature.
Our state and local governmental structure’s obsession with factional power struggles contributes heavily to its utter disconnection from the public’s legitimate business – thus encouraging single-purpose interest groups to bypass it altogether and use the ballot to advance their causes.
Some recent exchanges over territorial poaching among the state’s highest governmental figures provide powerful evidence of that implosion.
Two years ago, Democrats and labor unions persuaded voters to eliminate the two-thirds vote requirement for state budgets, thus erasing Republican influence on fiscal policy. But to make that ballot measure more palatable, they included a proviso that legislators would lose their salaries if they didn’t produce a budget by June 15 each year.
Last year was the first test of the new law and the Legislature flunked, producing a junked-up budget that Gov. Jerry Brown quickly rejected as unbalanced.
Thereupon, Controller John Chiang cut off legislators’ salaries until they enacted a new budget.
Legislators fumed at losing two weeks’ pay, and this year, their leaders sued Chiang, alleging that he lacked the power to enforce the law and that only the Legislature itself could determine whether it had complied.
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