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Lawmakers look ahead to new governor, new budget rules

November 3, 2010 | 10:33 pm

The days when California goes months without a state budget because of partisan gridlock should be gone for good, state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday.

That's because voters approved Proposition 25, which allows budgets to be approved by a simple majority of lawmakers rather than requiring a two-thirds vote.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy, though, he said. Steinberg, a Democrat from Sacramento, noted that voters also approved Proposition 26, which requires a two-thirds vote on some fees previously adoptable by a majority of lawmakers, and they approved a measure barring the state from taking funds from local governments.

"They said, 'Let’s get the budget done on time,' and certainly there is no reason for a late budget again with the passage of Prop. 25," Steinberg said at a Capitol news conference. "Unfortunately they also lessened the tools that we have, certainly on the revenue side, with the passage of Prop. 22 and Prop. 26."

This year, the Legislature set a record by passing the budget 100 days late.

Steinberg called Proposition 25 "a real game changer," saying Democrats would have enough votes to pass the budget without Republicans, reducing GOP legislators' leverage to hold the budget up unless their demands are met. But he said he called his Republican colleagues and offered to work closely with them on future budgets.

Steinberg said the ballot measure should change the psychology of Republican lawmakers to encourage them to collaborate more. "Why would you want to be on the outside looking in," he said.

Senate minority leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga said the new budget vote standard means Democrats will have to take more responsibility for budget problems because it will be harder for them to blame Republicans for resisting changes.

"It does take away some of the ability for people to make lame excuses," Dutton said. "You ought to be careful what you wish for."

At the same time, the requirement for a two-thirds vote on some fees will force Democrats to collaborate across the aisle and listen to the public, he said.

Added Assembly minority leader Martin Garrick (R-Solana Beach): "We will be at the table. And we will be giving our input. It’s up to them whether they listen or ignore us."

Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) agreed with Steinberg that the passage of Proposition 25 will have a positive impact on the budget process.

"Just having a different threshold doesn’t solve the economic problems facing the world, the country or the state, but it gives us a more rational process,” Pérez said.

Steinberg said the majority party’s job will also be made easier by the election of Democrat Jerry Brown as governor.

"I wake up this morning really excited about a fresh start and the ability to work with a governor of my own party," Steinberg said.

-- Patrick McGreevy and Jack Dolan