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Opinion

A California budget -- or else

Catch us on most days and we’d say the last thing California needs is another cranky voter revolt that responds to our fouled-up state government by fouling it up even more. We’ve had quite enough of those, thank you very much. Supermajority requirements, term limits, tax caps, voter earmarks; mandates to spend at least this much on schools, at least that much on police. Each angry initiative strips our elected representatives of more power to ever do anything useful, and then we wonder why they can’t get anything done.

Every now and then, though, on a day when there’s a half-hour backup on the four-level or when the marine layer is sticking around through the afternoon -- or when the governor and the Legislature are being especially stubborn and inept -- it’s possible to develop a temporary taste for one of those initiatives. The especially cranky kind. And this most definitely is one of those days.

Brad Morisoli of Livermore has proposed an initiative that provides, among other things, that if the Legislature fails to adopt a budget by midnight on June 15, every elected lawmaker’s term ends. The governor’s too. Right then, right there. See ya. None of those people could hold office again for at least two years. The “Pass Our Budget Act” is not just cranky, it’s kooky. Simplistic. Destructive. Where do we sign?

In the midst of the nation’s worst economic crisis in nearly seven decades, with the state’s unemployment rate nuzzling 10% and with bond money waiting to be spent on major transportation, water and housing projects, California has halted public construction and idled thousands of workers because our government can’t adopt a budget. In three weeks, Sacramento will begin sending out IOUs instead of paychecks. And no, those IOUs can’t be spent at the grocery store or the hardware store or any other business that is trying to keep its doors open. Teachers will be laid off. Health clinics will close. Stimulus money spewing out of Washington will bypass us on its way to states that have their acts together.

Our politicians could avert the cash crisis by simply adopting a midyear budget. It would sting -- with deep cuts and higher taxes -- but it would sting less than the total meltdown we are about to experience.

But no, Democrats, Republicans and the governor are acting like brats on a playground. “They started it!” “Did not!” “Did so!” “We did everything we could.” No, folks, you didn’t.

All those angry and irresponsible ballot measures Californians have adopted over the years have exacerbated the situation, but it’s hard to believe that we deserve the childishness we are getting from the Capitol in this fiscal emergency.

Adopt a budget. Now.

We may feel better after a deep breath or a good night’s sleep. Then we can return to critiquing the Republicans, the Democrats and the governor, each for their own plans and schemes, and urge them all to keep working. We’ll plod through more delicate reforms, and mull over the various calls for legislation or conventions to fix the state’s problems. But today, we’re angry. And as the cash dries up, good luck persuading Californians not to resort to more drastic measures. Like Brad Morisoli’s.


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