In November 2010 public employee unions won passage of Prop 25, selling it as a punitive measure against a comically unpopular Legislature for late budgets. They called it “No Budget, No Pay,” but the real motivation was to allow for a simple majority to pass a budget, freezing Republicans out of the process.
But one important question that no one seemed to ask was who determines whether or not a budget is balanced. The answer came in a court ruling last week, which said the Legislature itself gets to say whether or not it did its job. For the 85% of Californians who don’t approve of the job they are doing, this is probably disappointing news.
Because Republicans aren’t very good at winning elections in California, the same public employee unions who won passage of Prop 25 also completely control state government, so there is no check on this abuse of power.
Democratic Controller John Chiang courageously tried to stop legislators from getting paid, but Democrats in the Legislature sued him and won. Governor Jerry Brown rightly vetoed the Legislature’s initial unbalanced budget, but then signed an equally sham budget a few days later, banking on billions of dollars of phantom revenue to appear (it didn’t).
5,262,052 Californians voted for Prop 25. The state’s three largest papers, the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, and the San Francisco Chronicle endorsed it. They all bought what Democratic leaders and their union patrons were selling—that Prop 25 would lead to on-time, balanced budgets.
As it turns out, as long as legislators send the Governor a ham sandwich labeled “budget” before June 15 they get paid.
This is what happens when one interest—public employee unions—completely dominates our government. Voters should remember this in November, when Democrats have a real shot at gaining super-majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature, effectively neutering union opposition in Sacramento.