By: Gary Lasky
“All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by majority vote.”
The California Democracy Act is a simple 14-word initiative that, if it qualifies for the November 2010 ballot in California, would avoid the gridlock we experience whenever our legislature seeks to raise revenue or pass a budget.
At present, we live under “minority rule” in California. Republican legislators in Sacramento-in the minority because they happen to lose elections-are able to hold the budget hostage each year until Democratic legislators relent to their requests. These requests feature continued, and alarming, cuts in essential social safety net programs and education, as well as money for a vast prison system.
One reason California is in acute fiscal distress is that a two-thirds vote is required by each house of the state legislature to raise necessary revenue and to pass a budget. Ours is the only state with this two-thirds requirement for both.
The history of the two-thirds requirement to raise revenue lies in Proposition 13, which passed in 1978. Prop 13 not only set a cap on property taxes, as advertised, but also contained language to require a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the Assembly for future increases in all state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income taxes.
This has led to disastrous consequences for our state, where for many years a small minority has held the majority hostage over the budget. To overcome the impasse, more democracy is needed in the way California determines its budget.
California once had the greatest education system in the world, including free community college and university tuition. Today, students are forced to spend additional years in college when required courses are unavailable and steep fee increases make any college unaffordable to a significant and growing segment of the population.
As Californians for Democracy (www.californiansfordemocracy.com/) state: “It is simple democracy that the majority of legislators provide for the needs of the people they represent. Without such democracy, there is gridlock, economic chaos and suffering. We, the majority of voters, can restore democracy to California, and with it, responsible economic management.”
Activists in Fresno have joined with people throughout California circulating petitions to change the Constitution from the current two-thirds vote requirement to a majority. If the California Democracy Act passes, the reform will restore democracy to the budget process.
A coalition of grassroots organizations, advocacy groups, Web-based collectives, union members, Democratic clubs, religious groups and other concerned Californians are seeking a million signatures by mid-April. If you would like to sign the petition or circulate a petition, contact Gary Lasky at firstname.lastname@example.org.