As the legislature's June 15 deadline to produce a balanced budget looms (and with it the threat of forfeited paychecks), the state senate will begin Friday to debate the budget in daily floor sessions.
The budget sought by the Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrats includes extending sales and vehicle taxes that are due to expire. Republican lawmakers say no. (Brown says he just wants the extension until September when he would put the taxes to voters in a special election.)
It should be easier to pass a budget this year since voters last November said the process requires just a simple majority vote in the legislature, not the old two-thirds vote. And Democrats have a majority.
But... the budget is only a spending plan. To have money to spend, you need revenue. And the projected revenue from current taxes is coming up short, by almost $11 billion. That's where the tax extensions come in. Trouble is, to raise state taxes in California requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature. Democrats don't have a two-thirds majority. Thus the log-jam.
So while we wait... how would you like to see the budget balanced? With spending cuts? Tax increases? Some combination of the two? Next 10, a non-partisan public policy organization, has just released a new version of their California Budget Challenge. There are a few of these online games around but this is a good one. Give it a try!
(Headline with apologies to the late, great San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen.)