Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The California Budget Mess

Because of the two-thirds requirement for raising taxes in the California legislature, we have created a system that is designed for gridlock. The only way California's government can function properly is if we have a governor from the minority party (nowadays the Republicans) who has enough clout to persuade a few Republicans to go along with tax increases. We did not have this with Gray Davis, or course, so we recalled him. We do not have a functioning government with Schwarzenegger at the head either, unfortunately, because Schwarzenegger cannot get enough members of his own party to do what is needed to resolve the budget stalemate.

What is the justification for this two-thirds requirement? Why should the legislators who are opposed to tax increases have their votes counted twice as heavily as those who are in favor of tax increases? It seems to me that if anything, it should be the other way around. Those who are selfless and politically courageous enough to impose additional taxes on their constituents ought to have their votes weigh at least as heavily as those who refuse to raise the revenues needed to support the government services that the people want.

And to the Republican legislators who say that the answer to the current crisis is to cut spending instead of raising taxes, I say go ahead! You only need a majority of the legislature to cut spending. So if you can't get a majority, what that means is that the people do not support the spending cuts you want. Once the people's representatives have agreed on the amount that government will spend, it should be their obligation to raise the revenues to support that spending. It is unfortunate that the two thirds requirement for raising taxes gives the minority a tool to attempt to impose their will on the majority. The refusal to raise needed tax revenue should be seen as a refusal to exercise the legislature's most important responsibility.

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