California's Budget Battle Foreshadowed Debt Ceiling Debate
It's not just the federal government that's in deadlock. State-level battles over budget issues have mirrored the current political impasse over Washington's national debt and its borrowing limit. Minnesota's government has been in shutdown since July 1 and many Wisconsin public officials will soon face recall elections as a result of the successful effort led by Gov. Scott Walker to eliminate public unions' right to collective bargaining. As Bloomberg and others have documented, these battles reflect the current stalemate in Washington.
California was able to overcome its deficit, originally estimated at over $26 billion, with an historic on-time budget that passed with no Republican votes. This was possible because of voter-approved Prop 25, which allows a budget to pass with a simple majority in the state legislature, rather than a supermajority.
California's Treasurer Bill Lockyer expounded upon the parallels in an interview with the L.A. Times' George Skelton. Washington looks like it's about to emulate past mistakes and "kick the can down the road," Lockyer told the Times, echoing a phrase Gov. Jerry Brown used constantly when trying to persuade legislators to allow Californian's to vote on the extension of tax hikes to balance the budget.
Politicians in Sacramento and Washington — mainly Republicans — have a similar problem, the Democratic treasurer asserts: "They have an inability to declare victory when they've won."
Washington Republicans could have struck a deal forcing sharp spending cuts if they had been willing to vote for future tax hikes of a lesser magnitude, he says.
In Sacramento, if the GOP this year had just allowed Gov. Jerry Brown to place a tax measure on the ballot, they could have achieved long-sought reforms in public pensions, state spending and business regulation.