Ballot measure would change budget process
September 28, 2010 9:21 PM
As of Sept. 28, California's budget remains unsigned 90 days past its federally mandated due date, constituting the longest span a budget has gone unsigned in state history.
Though many agreed little could be done to expedite the budget process this time around, Proposition 25, which will appear on the November ballot, aims to end budget gridlock and jumpstart the state's sluggish economy.
The new legislation will also accommodate a more comfortable life at SF State and all other CSU campuses.
"Each year at the end of the budget process, Republicans get better and better at using the two-thirds vote needed to pass the budget to extort tax breaks for big business," said Ramon Castellblanch, California Faculty Association President at SF State. "Indirectly, money is taken out of the CSU's pocket because we all share the same pot."
Proposition 25 would change the current requirement of a two-thirds majority to pass a budget to a simple majority that would give individual politicians less power.
The CFA said the proposition would get the budget passed on time by withholding pay from politicians until a decision was reached and the budget was signed.
Conversely, opponents say it does not stipulate that pay is withheld until the budget is signed, only until a budget is presented, regardless of whether it is approved or not.
"It's a sham provision that fools voters into believing it holds politicians accountable," said Beth Miller, spokeswoman for the No on 25, Yes on 26 campaign. "We have no doubt Prop 25 would be used to raise taxes."
Miller believes those supporting Proposition 25 merely want a loophole that would allow them to raise taxes with a majority vote.
"It offers a lot of empty promises and there is no guarantee it will lead to a more timely or well balanced budget," she said.
The CFA chose to endorse Proposition 25 because they believed it would put a check on the politicians who sought to "extort" the budget and "hold it hostage to get what they want."
"Unlike K-12, whose funding is guaranteed, the CSU falls into an unprotected part of the general fund that makes it more susceptible to cuts," said Brian Ferguson, CFA communications specialist. "Prop 25 won't change everything but it will make the situation better."
The CFA said an unsigned budget wasn't a direct threat to public higher education because the CSU has a buffer zone maintained by private money, which allowed it to exist semi-independently from the budget.
Nonetheless, campuses statewide can still feel the effects of budget gridlock.
"Prop 25 has a direct connection to student fees," said Castellblanch. "If 25 passed, it would stop the kind of shenanigans that have led to tax breaks for big business and it would leave more money on the table for the CSU."
According to Ferguson, when the budget is tied up, the CSU fronts the money for Cal Grants that provide students with their tuition.
When the budget is signed, the state pays back the CSU. However, students who receive stipends to finance their education are unable to collect them until the budget is resolved.
Moreover, students are indirectly affected by budget gridlock because public services, such as free healthcare clinics, are ill equipped to operate without the state funding they depend on.
When the budget isn't signed, public agencies are forced to take out loans to cover costs until an agreeable budget is passed.
This limits the amount of people they can provide services to. According to the nonpartisan Field Poll, Proposition 25 is supported by 46 percent of likely voters and opposed by 30 percent.
This is down from July when roughly 65 percent approved the proposition and 20 percent opposed.
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