Budget Fight Will Happen In A Hurry, Behind Closed Doors

That tick-tock you hear from Sacramento is the budget clock ticking away, with lawmakers facing loss of their paycheck if they miss the once-ignored June 15 budget deadline (voters put that penalty on them a few years ago). One of the more critical observers, the right-leaning Dan Walters at the Sacramento Bee, outlines what we can expect and explains what the lawmakers mean when an item, like the state courts funding, is being “left open.”

“That’s political speak for those items that will not be resolved in public but rather behind closed doors, with the largest left to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature’s top leaders,” writes Walters, adding that “… the committee’s public sessions are aimed at maintaining the fiction that writing the budget – more than $200 billion in all forms of spending – is an open process. Their major value, really, is to provide clues to the many conflicts that linger just 10 days before the constitutional deadline for enactment.”

It’s worth noting that increasing courts funding by $100 million dollars is not at issue between the Assembly and Senate, but remains unresolved between lawmakers and the governor. At any rate, Democrats are in total control: Up until three years ago, it took a two-thirds vote to pass a budget, but you may recall voters passed a constitutional amendment requiring only a majority. Walters contends that an “unintended consequence” is that lawmakers have less time to work out disagreements.

You can get a good overview from his column here.