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September 11, 2015
Bill Bird @ 916-651-4029

SACRAMENTO – In an effort to stop the political tricks that voters of California hoped to avoid when they approved Proposition 25 (2010), Senate Republicans introduced a Senate Constitutional Amendment (SCA 10) known as The Budget Accountability and Transparency Act of 2015.

The need for SCA 10 was demonstrated clearly today, when Senate Democrats misused Proposition 25 to push through a series of new amendments to the budget, called budget trailer bills, on the floor – more than two months after the budget was passed.

Proposition 25 promised an on-time (June 15) budget or legislators would not get paid, and allowed for majority vote budget and trailer bills to accomplish that goal. It is clear California voters did not intend for legislators to pass an unbalanced and incomplete budget on June 15, while they work on secretive back room deals — collecting their paychecks even though the budget work is unfinished. Californians deserve respect and honest representation, not loopholes and deception. The Senate Republican proposal will keep the promise of Proposition 25, No budget – No pay.

“California voters did not vote for lawmakers to collect their paychecks for simply passing a half-baked budget on June 15, only to be followed up weeks and even months later with a series additional budget bills,” said Senator Bob Huff (R-San Dimas). “Our Constitutional Amendment is a simple solution that will hold elected state officials truly accountable: unless a complete state budget is enacted by June 15, trailer bills and all, the governor and legislators will not get paid until their work is finished and the budget is signed into law.”

Provisions of the Budget Transparency Act of 2015 include:

  • All budget bills and trailer bills must be in print for at least three days for public review prior to a vote.
  • The budget bill must be enacted by June 15 in order for legislators and the Governor to get paid.
  • All trailer bills associated with the budget must also be enacted by June 15.

Former Controller and current State Treasurer John Chiang believed the Legislature was playing fast and loose with the rules of Proposition 25 in 2011 when he suspended legislators’ pay after Governor Brown vetoed the budget bill because it was unbalanced.

Senate Democrats took the then-Controller to court. During the hearing, a lawyer for the State Controller told the court, “You could take a piece of paper and write, ‘We estimate revenue will meet spending.’ And you could wrap it around a ham sandwich, and you could send it over to the governor, and you could call it a budget. And you could keep getting paid. But it’s still a ham sandwich.”

Unfortunately, the court ruled against the Controller because the current rules set in place by Proposition 25 allow the ruling party to continue to play games with the budget, as they proved once again today when they passed a new budget bill plus three budget trailer bills more than two months after the June 15 deadline. In fact, there are still ongoing negotiations involving billions of state budget dollars for health care, transportation, and the state’s greenhouse gas ‘cap and trade’ program that were supposed to be resolved before legislators collected their paychecks.

The editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune declared in November 2011 that Proposition 25 has made “things worse.” They referred to what they described as a “hallucinatory revenue forecast” and said:

“But five months after the state budget was adopted on the eve of the 2011-12 fiscal year, Proposition 25 on balance appears to have encouraged dysfunction and poor decision-making, not reduced these scourges. After missing the initial deadline for passing a budget, what lawmakers came up with to avoid losing more pay is one of the most gimmicky and legally tenuous spending plans that California has ever seen – which is saying a lot.”

You can read more about the game-playing in this article by Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton in June 2012.

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters also recently wrote an article about California’s unfortunate shift towards emulating congress with sneaky bills and piecemeal budgets.

“Clearly there has been an effort to hoodwink the people of California ever since Proposition 25 was passed,” said Senator Huff. “This situation will only get worse unless we put real teeth into the “no pay” part of the Proposition and we force the deal making out of the backroom and into the public sunlight by requiring these budget bills to be in print for a minimum of three days before they get a vote. SCA 10 will close the Proposition 25 loophole that has allowed the ruling party to abuse their power, and it will ensure that the promises made to the voters when they supported Proposition 25 in 2010 are kept.”
Senator Huff represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties. Follow Senator Huff on Twitter at @bobhuff99.

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