Californians are wary of what is going on in Sacramento these days, and for good reason. So why, according to the most recent Field Poll, does the Legislature get a 23 % job approval rating? Take the recent actions by the majority party. The newly enacted majority vote budget relies upon passage of the Governor’s $8.5 billion tax increase, while targeting education for 99% of those proposed trigger cuts if the tax increases fail. In an effort to grease the wheels for its passage, the majority party used the new Proposition 25 to change the rules in the middle of the game.
Approved by voters in 2010, Prop. 25 allows for so-called “budget trailer bills” to be enacted through a majority vote of the Legislature. Budget trailer bills typically include modest changes to existing state law that must be made to account for spending decisions in that year’s budget. In my view, Democrats manipulated Proposition 25 by passing Assembly Bill 1499 that changed the order of the measures on the November ballot. Absent the budget, the majority party would have been required to get a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to change the ordering. But through the passage of Proposition 25, they were able to pass this legislation on a simple majority vote by sneaking in just $1,000 in spending to bypass the rule.
The effect of this action was to move the Governor’s tax plan from 8th in order to the top of the ballot, which experts say boosts its chance of passage. Additionally, it would be separated at the top of the ballot from two other tax increase measures that voters will be deciding at the same time in November. My colleagues across the aisle said that this change was a necessary action to enact the budget. Changing the order of measures on the ballot is not a critical budget act, but rather is a ruse to try and stack the deck in favor of the Governor’s tax increase plan.
This action is just the latest in a series of actions by Democrats to try and undermine fair elections in California for their own partisan gain. In fact, last year Democrats enacted Senate Bill 202 that would present ballot measures to the voters only in the November election every two years. They did this not to make elections more efficient, but rather to ensure that their favored positions have a better outcome at the polls when more Democrats are voting.
More troubling, AB 1499 was crafted behind closed doors. No Assembly committee hearing was held, which effectively silenced the voice of the people. It’s no wonder why a government watchdog group recently gave California a C- grade for openness and transparency in the budget process.
To be sure, I have no problem with any citizens group collecting signatures to place a measure on the ballot and then letting the people decide. But changing the rules of the election to favor one side or the other is just plain un-democratic. I am confident that taxpayers will not be fooled by this power play of the majority party. Standing together, we must send Sacramento the message that transparency and accountability must always be the order of the day in the People’s House.