Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Friday, Jun. 29, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

I told you so. Or, more accurately, I was one of several commentators who warned voters two years ago that a ballot measure to reduce the legislative vote margin on the state budget from two-thirds to a simple majority could backfire.

From a column before the 2010 election:

“There is, however, another troublesome aspect to Proposition 25. Even if its language isn’t a backdoor way of raising taxes, it would allow extraneous matters to be included in the budget package and protect them from being challenged via referendum.

“Thus, it could be a vehicle for secretly passing special-interest favors that may have no real budgetary purpose. Conceptually, it’s a step forward. In practice, however, it could have insidious and corrosive consequences.”

We saw some of that legislative skulduggery in the 2011 budget, the first enacted under Proposition 25. But we’ve seen even more this year, as dozens of so-called trailer bills were drafted in secrecy, made technically legal only by including token $1,000 appropriations, and then quickly enacted with scant, if any, public notice.

One was aimed solely at making it more likely that voters would approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s sales and income tax ballot measure by jumping it over others to the top of the November ballot. Several others were giveaways to public employee unions, which are the Democrats’ chief source of funds for their own campaigns and the tax measure.

The process was so blatant that legislative leaders such as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg admitted that secrecy was employed to thwart opponents of bills from marshaling legislative opposition.

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