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Bulletin: California has NOT Passed a Budget

 

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--The California media keeps getting it wrong. The state legislature hasn’t passed a budget. And the governor hasn’t made it law.

It’s not because they don’t want to do those things. It’s because they can’t. Not in California.

Yes, the legislature approved a document called a budget, and Gov. Brown signed it. But that is not the state budget. That is sort of a holding document that decides all the very easy things that can be decided under the California budget system.

All the budget optimism has blinded us to the unchanging reality in California:

The real budget is decided by voters.

And that’s not because they necessarily want it that way. It’s just how California works.

Anything that changes the constitution or affects previous initiatives has to be decided by ballot – that’s what makes California different. In addition, difficult tax and spending questions get put on the ballot by the rich and the interested – because they want political power or notice, or they want leverage, or they want something that they can’t get from the governor and the legislature.

Gov. Brown and the legislature’s main budget reform has been to move all these big ballot measure questions away from June, and pile them up on a big messy November ballot. That’s where voters will decided on the key points of the budget—various taxes including partial Prop 30 extensions, and a host of other questions that could affect spending and taxes.

So it’s November – or maybe December, when the votes are all finally counted – when the budget gets passed. Well, sort of. The courts can rule on measures, further delaying things.

So hold the congratulation about passing budgets, at least until the stores are decorated for Christmas.

(Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. This was originally posted at Fox and Hounds.

-cw