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Proposition 31: Changing the Budgeting Process

Oct 9, 2012

Credit Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould /

Our election 2012 coverage continues with a report on Proposition 31. The measure would change California’s budgeting process. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, it would do much more than that.

Proposition 31 has been criticized for not going far enough to change California’s fiscal environment, for being too complex, and for its possible unintended consequences. James Mayer is the Executive Director of California Forward which is pushing Proposition 31.

“We explain this to Californians that we’ve built a new budget process that’s really based on best practices in other states that’s 90-percent of this measure.”

Mayer says Prop. 31 would end the turmoil of annual budgeting by establishing a two-year performance-based budget. It would require the legislature to define funding sources for new programs or tax cuts costing 25-million dollars or more. The measure would permit the Governor to cut the budget unilaterally in fiscal emergencies…if the Legislature doesn’t act.

“It’s certainly got more words in it than that and there are more details cause you’re dealing with law, but that’s really what it does, stabilizes the budget process at the state level and gives some incentives and encouragement to local governments to work together.”

Under Prop 31, local governments could develop their own procedures to administer state programs. That has opponents particularly concerned. Tom Adams, Co-Chair of the No on 31 campaign, fears it could allow local politicians to undermine state laws.

“If local governments wanted to preempt the clean air act or preempt provisions of the clean water act, or change Medi-Cal eligibility standards, they would be able to do these things.”

The measure would also require the legislature to make bills public at least three days before a vote. All of the changes would amend California’s constitution. Republicans for the most part support the measure. Democrats generally do not.