Governor Jerry Brown prepares to sign copies of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights on July 11 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / July 15, 2012)
By George Skelton Capitol Journal
July 15, 2012, 9:13 p.m.
SACRAMENTO — This wasn’t the deal. Californians thought they were only allowing the Legislature to pass a budget on a majority vote. They wanted to unclog the capitol.
They didn’t intend it as a license for Gov. Jerry Brown to rig the election ballot to benefit his tax-increase proposal.
It seems like a non sequitur and unfathomable to link the two: budget passing and ballot rigging.
That takes chutzpah and arrogance.
A state appellate judge will decide whether it’s legal.
Many Californians were skeptical anyway in 2010, when they passed Proposition 25 to reduce the legislative vote requirement for a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.
They really didn’t trust the Legislature. What if there was one-party rule in Sacramento — a Democratic governor and the inevitable Democratic Legislature? No party checks and balances. What if?
Well, we just saw.
You may remember how Prop. 25 was sold: California was suffering from budget gridlock. State vendors, healthcare providers and schools were being stiffed because of late budgets. State credit ratings were falling. Only two other states required a two-thirds vote for budget passage. It was a seller’s market for votes in the Capitol. Special interests were the brokers.
Prop. 25 has been a good thing. We’ve had two consecutive on-time budgets. No more summer-long Capitol squabbling, no more state-issued IOUs.
But recently Prop. 25 was shamefully abused by Democrats at the behest of Brown, who paradoxically rode to power four decades ago on a platform of political reform.
Bear with me, because this makes almost no sense.
Brown’s soak-the-rich tax initiative was going to be stuck toward the bottom of the propositions pack in seventh place among 11, where it was in jeopardy of being ignored by voters.
Just as bad, his measure was bunched next to a rival income tax/education funding proposal sponsored by wealthy Pasadena civil-rights attorney Molly Munger. Many voters could become confused and simply reject both.
The solution conjured up by Brown’s political strategists: Pass a law moving Brown’s proposal to the top.
The new law requires that bond issues and constitutional amendments be listed first on the ballot. There is no state bond measure in November. So Brown’s tax, a constitutional amendment, was boosted to the top as Prop. 30.
Munger’s proposal is a mere statute. It will be listed near the bottom as Prop. 38.
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