Capitol Alert

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Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said today he is prepared to ask the Legislature to put California Forward's proposal to lower the vote requirement for passing a budget on the November ballot.

"I'm still waiting to hear from California Forward if they have finalized all the elements they have been tweaking, but I'm prepared to take it to (my caucus) rather quickly," Pérez said in an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau.

Officials from the foundation-funded reform group said earlier this week that lackluster fundraising will likely sideline their push to qualify a pair of proposed initiatives encompassing various budget and governmental reforms, including lowering the vote requirement for passing a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.

The group, which would need to gather nearly 700,000 valid voter signatures for each measure by mid-May, is expected to make a decision tomorrow on whether to proceed with the qualification campaign.

Pérez, who also called for the change during his swearing-in ceremony, said he believes having a majority vote would provide more accountability and transparency in the budget process.

"We're the only state that has a supermajority requirement and gives the governor line-item authority to veto. It makes it so nobody knows who's responsible, nobody knows who's accountable," he said. "You have a majority party who's leveraged by a minority party to get things in the budget to get a handful of votes, but nobody knows who's accountable for the overall package."

Polls have shown that approving a simple majority budget vote could be a tough sell for voters, but Pérez said the nuanced and wide-ranging nature of California Forward's proposals would improve its chances on the ballot.

"You put together an overall package, not designed by the Legislature, designed by people that have big concerns about how we govern ourselves as a state and you say, 'This in toto is a good package for the state of California,' " he said. "I'm not going to like every element of it, the question is, on balance, do we think the package moves in the right direction."

An even tougher sell, though, will be his Republican colleagues in the Legislature, who argue the change would give the majority Democrats too much power in the budget process.

"There is absolutely no support among legislative Republicans for eliminating the taxpayer protections in the Constitution requiring a two-thirds vote for passing a budget or raising taxes," Assembly Republican leader Martin Garrick said in a statement. "With California in the midst of a severe economic recession, the Capitol should be focused on putting people back to work, not making it easier to pass budgets that increase taxes and fees on the small businesses that employ our workforce."



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