The Consequences of One Party Rule in Sacramento: From Bad to Worse

In Sacramento, the appalling consequences of one party rule have become manifest.

Last summer, I wrote about one party rule in the Legislature and pointed out the similarities with the early days of Fascist Italy, where the party gained control of the Italian Parliament through intimidation. I concluded, “Today in Sacramento, to impose one political party’s policies using undemocratic procedures, black-shirted goons are not needed to guard the doors of the Capitol Building. The thugs are inside the chambers casting the votes.”

The one party system under the Capitol Dome, that has resulted in all major decisions affecting the state budget being made in secrecy, out of public view, and behind closed doors, has come about as a result of the passage of Proposition 25 just two years ago. Backed by Democrats who hold a majority in the Legislature, the measure eliminated the two-thirds requirement to pass a budget that had been in effect since 1933. To gain public support, expensive political ads promised voters that lawmakers would be penalized with loss of pay if they failed to produce an on-time balanced budget.

Although the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association campaigned to expose Prop. 25 as a sham, the lure of “no budget, no pay” proved to be a powerful incentive to voters who approved the measure.

When, last year, the Legislature produced a budget that was in the opinion of paymaster, Controller John Chaing, out of balance, he withheld pay under the terms of Proposition 25. However, irate lawmakers went to court and prevailed — the only agency entitled to make the determination as to whether or not the budget is balanced is — wait for it — the Legislature itself!

So, what Californians have unintentionally achieved with Proposition 25 is single party rule, with no penalties for failing to deliver a balanced budget — unless, of course, one believes that lawmakers will voluntarily cut their own pay.

Now there are some, who are sympathetic to the goals of legislative Democrats, who may think that one political party having total power over the state budget is a good thing. But let’s look at how it is actually working.

Assembly Budget Committee member Don Wagner, a Republican, reports that last year the committee convened for just 45 minutes to consider the final budget document before the chairman cut off questioning to take a vote so that Democratic members of the committee could catch their flights out of town.

This year it was worse. No questions were allowed and the actual language of the bill the legislators were supposed to vote on was not made available. While broad categories of spending were provided, the individual amounts allocated to each of various programs were not produced. Wagner compares this process with Nancy Pelosi’s infamous comment on ObamaCare, “we have to pass the bill to know what is in it.”

Lest anyone think this is a partisan screed, it should be noted that the real problem is not which party is in charge but a system that allows any political party to so dominate the budget process that members of the public — the real losers here — have no advance information on how their money will be spent and no opportunity to comment. Prop. 25 has now institutionalized government concealment in the budget process.

Prop. 25, along with the just-passed Prop. 28 — that will allow lawmakers to serve up to twelve years in either house — have had the result of turning the California Legislature into something closely resembling the old Soviet Politburo, a self-perpetuating committee that enforces one party control over government and the people.

(Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights. Originally posted on HJTA.)