Voters will have a chance to radically change the state's budget process this fall, as two competing measures have qualified for the ballot.
The first, the “On-Time Budget Initiative,” would cut the threshold to pass a budget from two-thirds to a majority vote.
The second, the “Stop Hidden Taxes Initiative,” would raise the threshold to two thirds for fees and levies that can now pass with a majority. So what would happen if both initiatives pass?
“I don't know that anybody's done an analysis yet,” said Roger Salazar, spokesman for the union-backed majority budget campaign. “It would make things interesting.”
“The courts would probably have to sort it out,” said Susan Shafer, spokeswoman for the Stop Hidden Taxes campaign.
The two measures go in opposite directions, but they aren't exactly incompatible. The On-Time Budget Initiative would leave in place the two-thirds
requirement for tax increases, which was part of Proposition 13. The
Stop Hidden Taxes initiative would expand the definition of a tax to
include a bunch of fees.
So you'd end up with a majority requirement to pass the budget, and a two-thirds requirement to increase any taxes or fees. That's pretty close to a compromise plan outlined earlier this year by the reform group California Forward.
Could it happen? Well, it's not likely. But stranger things have come out of California's system of ballot-box budgeting.