Monday, October 11, 2010

The California Budget Deadline and Human Capabilities

Article IV, Section 12 c(3) of the California Constitution says:
The Legislature shall pass the budget bill by midnight on June 15 of each year. 
This past Friday, October 8,  the legislature finally passed the budget - more than100 days after the fiscal year began. 
How can this happen?  How can the legislature be in violation of the State Constitution - 23 times out of the last 24 years it seems.

If your boss told you to jump over the building you work at, you'd laugh.
But if your boss told you do some report that was as impossible as jumping over the building, odds are you'd start scrambling to do it. 

We understand our physical limits better than we understand the limits of the more subjective aspects of our lives.  Is the

In addition to the June 15 deadline, the budget has to be passed by a 2/3 majority, a requirement added in 1933.  Given that the Republicans and Democrats ideologically disagree about how the world works and how human beings work, and given that each legislator has control only of his or her own vote - I suspect the deadline and the 2/3 majority requirement is like asking the Legislature to jump over the Capitol Building. 

The Constitution is a piece of paper created and recreated by human beings.  It's real to the extent that people believe in it. 

The California Constitution requires the budget to be passed by June 15, but if everyone looks the other way, it doesn't matter. 

To add one more hurdle to getting to the deadline on time, in 1978, as part of Prop 13, a 2/3 vote requirement was added for increasing revenues. 
[from Wyoming Legislature]
A California State Senate document on the History of the Budget from Fiscal Year 1965-66  to FY 2009 - 2010 shows that of the budgets between 1965-66 and 1978-79 (Prop 13 passed in this Fiscal Year I believe),  six of the 15 years, the budget was 'chaptered' after the beginning of the July 1 fiscal year.  All but two of those were done within a few days of the deadline (by July 4.)  One was July 6 and the worst was July 13.  (The deadline to pass the budget was missed 14/15 times, but only six times late enough to miss the July 1 beginning of the Fiscal Year.)

Since FY 1978-79, the budget was chaptered by July 1 nine times out of 31.  (I'm not completely sure I'm reading it right since FY 2009-10 says they passed the legislation in February which isn't the case.)  The delays are much longer - this year over 100 days.

Does this mean that Prop 13 made it worse? There's a correlation, but we don't know for sure that's the cause.  It could be that the political divisions got too fractious. 

Proposition 25 on California's November ballot would eliminate the requirement for a 2/3 majority to pass the budget.  It also adds a consequence for legislators by, according to Sunday's LA Times Voter Guide, "causing them to forfeit their salaries and expenses for every day they fail to settle on a spending plan."    (In Alaska, State judges have their salary withheld if they fail to submit an affidavit that they have no pending decisions or opinions over six months old.)

Remembering that some things we expect others to do, or others expect us to do are impossible, is useful.  Actually knowing when something is impossible is a lot harder.  

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