Appeal-Democrat, Marysville: Don't lower the spending bar
There's nothing sacrosanct about the constitutionally required supermajority vote for both houses of the Legislature to adopt a state budget. It didn't even exist 76 years ago. Occasionally, someone suggests returning to that simpler era when it was much easier to spend taxpayers' money.
But the people determine the rules the Legislature must follow. And for three-quarters of a century, Californians have preferred the supermajority rule.
Legislative Democrats are once again proposing to kill the two-thirds requirement, and to lower the budget-passage threshold to a simple majority by putting a constitutional amendment on next year's ballot. Even casual observers must recognize how devastating that would be for state finances, and for the peoples' well-being. The last thing Californians need is to make it easier for legislators to spend their money.
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Already the Legislature has fumbled its adopted $103 billion budget because tax revenue is about $11 billion short. The ability to more easily pass a budget wouldn't fix that problem. It probably would exacerbate it.
Voters realize the danger of giving legislators, who consistently demonstrate bad judgment, a lower bar to clear. In 2004, a crushing 66 percent of voters rejected a similar constitutional amendment to lower the two-thirds budget requirement to 55 percent.
Democrats say California is out of step because 47 other states don't require two-thirds budget approval. But we like for California to march to that different drummer. Californians seem to like it, too. In May, during Sacramento's protracted, bitter budget wrangling, the Public Policy Institute of California nevertheless found 53 percent of likely voters polled said it was a bad idea to lower the budget-approval threshold to 55 percent. Only 39 percent said it was a good idea.
It's ironic that this latest effort to amend the state constitution is likely to die in the Legislature because putting it on the ballot also requires a two-thirds vote. Republicans, who number barely enough to block that approval, oppose changing the rules.
The two-thirds requirement may not be written in stone, or even be commonplace among the states. But for 75 years it's properly required a broader consensus for spending taxpayers' money. We, and most Californians, appreciate that restraint, especially on profligate spenders who already adopt budgets they can't pay for, even when it's more difficult for them to do.
Santa Cruz Sentinel: Can Santa Cruz fund the city it wants to be?
After a November round of budget slashing that included cuts to social services, elimination of open positions and a trimming of police department office hours, the Santa Cruz City Council is now preparing to slice even deeper.
The first round hurt; this round threatens some of the core institutions that make up the heart of Santa Cruz.
On the block: closing the Surfing Museum on West Cliff Drive, shutting down the Harvey West Pool, closing the Beach Flats Community Center and the Museum of Natural History.
And it doesn't stop there. Also likely to be chopped are 13 full-time jobs and those who remain might see their hours -- and income -- reduced.
Can it get any worse? Unfortunately, we all know the answer is "yes." Cities and counties throughout the state are preparing for more cuts in the spring, and Santa Cruz is no exception. City Manager Dick Wilson warns that if the economy continues its free-fall, more closures and layoffs might be necessary.
Is there any hope? Fortunately, the answer also is "yes." But elected officials and residents need to come to grips with creating a tax base that can support city services.
Long before the current recession started, Wilson warned that the city was dancing on the edge of financial catastrophe. But plans to build a new hotel/conference center, add retail development and improve the beach area -- the kinds of developments that build a tax base -- have fallen apart amid political bickering.
The City Council has shown signs of moving toward a more business friendly climate. There's nothing left up administrators' sleeves. The cuts are real and they will touch the heart and soul of this community.