By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Passing the state budget on time
What could schools and public services do with $52 million a day? A few things come to mind — like classroom supplies, art and music, after-school programs and health care.
That’s the amount it costs the state every single day the budget is late, according to the state Department of Finance. Even though the state constitution calls for a budget to pass on June 15 each year, the state has failed to meet the constitutional deadline for more than 22 years. Last year, legislators went more than 80 days past the deadline to adopt a budget. The two-thirds vote requirement allows a handful of legislators to essentially hold the budget hostage.
Those who believe enough is enough can vote yes on Proposition 25 — the On-Time Budget Act — in the November election. The initiative, sponsored by CTA, would reform the system by allowing a simple majority of legislators to approve the budget, just as 47 other states do. It also holds legislators accountable by preventing them from collecting their pay and benefits for every day the budget is late — money they can’t recover later when they pass the budget.
It would not lower the two-thirds vote required to raise taxes, according to the California attorney general and the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst.
“With California in crisis, we need a Legislature that works,” says CTA President David A. Sanchez. “We all suffer when legislators play games with the budget.”
When last year’s budget was delayed, California issued 450,000 IOUs to small businesses, state workers and others who do business with the state, costing taxpayers more than $8 million in interest payments alone. California’s chronically late budgets have resulted in the lowest credit rating of any state. That dubious distinction alone costs the state millions of dollars each year.
More than 16,000 teachers were laid off last year and 26,000 pink slips were issued this year because of the budget mess. Prop. 25 would allow schools to plan their budgets responsibly by letting them know what they can expect from the state — which is impossible when the state budget is late.
Late budgets waste tax money and inflate the cost of building schools and roads. Last year, when the budget was delayed, road projects were shut down and then restarted several days later, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and further damaging California’s credit rating.
“The reasons California needs Prop. 25 are not academic,” says Paul Hogarth, managing editor of the online publication Beyond Chron. “Our budget dysfunction has had a real impact on the state’s economy. Unemployment is sky-high, school funding has declined to the point where we will be 50th in per-pupil spending, community clinics have shut down, and parks are in trouble. Californians are outraged, and it’s our responsibility to show them that we can’t afford not to pass Prop. 25.”
In addition to CTA, Prop. 25 is supported by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; AFL-CIO; the California Faculty Association; the California Federation of Teachers; the California Nurses Association; California Professional Firefighters; and the California School Employees Association.
If passed, Prop. 25 will...
- Reform the system by allowing a simple majority of legislators to approve the budget, just as 47 other states do.
- Allow schools to plan their budgets responsibly by letting them know what they can expect from the state.
- Hold legislators accountable by preventing them from collecting their pay and benefits for every day the budget is late - money they can’t recover later when they pass the budget.
- NOT lower the two-thirds vote required to raise taxes (according to the California attorney general and the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst).