The California Legislature passed a budget with six hours to spare this year and was able to include important investments in infrastructure and workforce development all while adding to the state’s rainy day fund.
It’s a stark improvement over the three D’s that defined the budget process during the prior decade: drama, delays and deficits. Slowly but surely, the state is climbing out of a deep dark hole dug by overspending and an underperforming economy.
But while the state’s fiscal situation is improving and all parties involved deserve accolades for getting a sound budget passed on time, there is still some lingering procedural darkness.
“There is always room for improvement in the budget process and this year was no exception. California Forward was happy to see most of the budget trailer language was available 72 hours prior to Sunday’s vote, however a few dark-of-the-night provisions were inserted last minute which can cause voters to call for further change and reform,” said Phil Ung, Director of Public Affairs for CA Fwd.
The Sacramento Bee touches on this issue well in their reporting:
Among trailer bills lawmakers took up Sunday were items inserted with little public review in recent days, including controversial language capping the amount of money school districts may set aside for economic uncertainties if state-level reserves reach certain levels.
The measure, backed by California’s influential teachers unions, was opposed by school administrators, and some Democrats who supported the proposal criticized the late hour at which it appeared.
“My main concern truly is with the process,” Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, said before the measure cleared a budget committee Sunday. “This is clearly a major policy deviation from the way we’ve done business, and this is something that could have been discussed over the last several months.”
CA Fwd has promoted its own Path Toward Trust as a means toward restoring public faith in government. The way trailer bills have inserted last minute items into the budget without longterm public discussion worries Democrats as well as Republicans. Fiscal responsibility is only half the battle; the public must trust government to have faith in how they spend tax dollars as well.
Here is a full KQED segment, featuring Mr. Ung, detailing one of the last minute additions to the budget via trailer bill:
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