Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Hey Big Daddy,
Any final thoughts on the California state budget? How long do you think this band-aid will hold?

 Cynical in Ceres

Hey Cynical,
I don’t much about the budget, but I do know this. As slumber parties go, that one totally blew. It was about as much fun as a convention of insurance executives talking shop. In German.

Even Tom Ammiano wasn’t inspired to make any quips about how he “hadn’t slept with that many people since the 70s.” When ole Tom can’t find the energy to rattle off a sex joke, you know the proceedings have gotten depressing.

And I wasn’t even there. For some sick reason, I was at home watching on the Cal Channel. At least the alcohol helped.

The end product is about what you’d expect from keeping a bunch of middle-aged folks up way past their bed time. And did you follow the votes on those bills? Can somebody please explain to me what was in a budget that saw Bob Huff, Dennis Hollingsworth and Gloria Romero voting for it, while Gil Cedillo, Mimi Walters and Pat Wiggins were voting no?

But anyone with a real-world perspective on these things can see, this is no way to make policy. That being said, what other choice was there? Since we seem to be budgeting every six months instead of every year now, I’m sure we’ll get a chance to improve upon last week’s show for next time.

And come to think of it, everybody’s talking about doing a constitutional convention, so maybe the time is ripe to start throwing out some new ideas. Maybe all those nifty costumes at the Tax Day Tea Parties got people wanting to play dress-up and make-believe—which is basically what the legislature has been doing for 18 months now, minus the wigs. Well, in most cases, anyway. Moving on.
Republicans won’t let go of the two-thirds vote requirement without getting something in return. So how about a market-based budget process? Once a budget stalemate has been established—say, the moment after the opening bill of a new session—we could instead go to a bidding process. The Democrats, the Republicans and the governor could all put forward competing plans. Then, instead of voting, legislators would buy shares in whichever plan they preferred, but they could only use their own money. All the money, in turn, would go towards debt reduction.

On the plus side, this plan would preserve one of the few constants in the budget process in recent years—that is, that Abel Maldonado gets to decide everything. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that there is something oddly comforting about that. On the downside, Maldonado terms out next year, so this would be a short term solution.

So, short of ending term limits for just one guy, maybe it’s time to think about a few other ideas. How about a moving-target vote requirement? For every month late the budget runs, the two-thirds vote requirement drops by one vote. Dems usually want a budget fast, while Reeps are usually happy to wait around until the cows come home, start collecting Social Security and move to hospice care. Both sides would have an incentive to negotiate. If this plan had been in effect since this budget standoff started, we’d need less than a majority vote to pass.

I’ve got some other ideas that involve a French poodle, a pick-up truck, the Fredrick’s of Hollywood catalog, and 11 pounds of Sopressata sausage, but those ideas, like most budget ideas, are probably better left unsaid.

Hey, maybe I’ll introduce those next time…

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