Capitol Alert

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A monthly magazine published by Wall Street Journal takes a stab this month at explaining California's complex and perhaps dysfunctional budgetary politics - and gets it dead wrong.

The description of the machinations over the state budget is contained in an article about Nicolas Berggruen, the 50-year-old billionaire who, through his private foundation, is financing "Think Long California," a consortium of civic and political leaders seeking solutions to governance roadblocks.

As writer Stacy Meichtry describes it in WSJ Magazine, Berggruen convened the group a year ago as part of his interest in global governance issues, and it responded thusly:

"The group recommended creating a 'rainy day fund' requiring the state to set up reserves when tax revenues are running high. Another suggestion: Allow California's gridlocked assembly to approve the state's budget with a simple majority rather than a two-thirds majority. With some arm-twisting from Berggruen's group, the assembly passed both initiatives into law. Tax hikes and budget cuts passed under the simple majority rule have so far helped California to cut its deficit by nearly two-thirds."

Say what?

The "rainy day fund" is contained within a ballot measure that was part of the 2010 budget deal, but the Legislature's Democrats have passed a bill that, among other things, would postpone the vote until 2014 (and make no bones that they'd like to kill it altogether). The simple-majority vote wasn't approved by the "assembly," which Meichtry apparently uses as the name for the Legislature, but rather by voters in 2010 in a ballot measure sponsored mostly by public employee unions. And it didn't result in any tax hikes, nor has the state's budget deficit been cut by two-thirds.

That's about three strikes and you're out in the accuracy department.

We've yet to see any recommendations from "Think Long California," but it will reportedly unveil some proposed reforms later this fall.


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