Make Some Change

California Politics: A ballot initiative to repeal the two-thirds requirement to pass the budget will increase the Legislature's efficiency.

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According to a recent report by the state's chief budget analyst, California faces a projected deficit of $21 billion.

After this year's across-the-board cuts have left schools and universities struggling to operate adequately, it has become clear that the ongoing budget woes won't end unless we have serious structural reforms.

And one part of this change must be the repeal of Proposition 13-the 1978 initiative which limits property taxes and requires a two-thirds majority to pass budgets.

UC Berkeley Professor George Lakoff is leading a ballot initiative effort to undo one part of Proposition 13. Lakoff's California Democracy Act would amend the state Constitution to end "minority rule" when it comes to passing budgets or tax hikes, by requiring a majority vote.

The supermajority voting threshold has led to regular stalemates in Sacramento, even though only a handful of Republicans are usually needed to pass a budget. In the record-setting 2008 stalemate, the state budget was 85 days late.

Given the dismally-low approval ratings of state legislators and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's clear that Californians recognize our bleak financial state. But what we must realize is that with the two-thirds requirement, there's only so much the Legislature can realistically accomplish during budgeting.

700,000 signatures are needed by April 16 to get the initiative on the 2010 ballot. Even if you're unsure whether you support the change, it's important that Californians have the opportunity to vote on this measure.

Rather than focusing on the potential of increased taxes, residents must realize that our state is broken. Devastating cuts have pushed the state's critical programs, including our public universities, to a breaking point.

The two-thirds requirement allows a minority to hijack the budgeting process, and play politics with the state's money. Partisanship distracts officials from tackling the state's severe economic problems, and blocks real change from being accomplished. Legislators need every tool at hand to resolve our complex fiscal problems, and to preserve the quality of our public higher education.

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