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California lawmakers wrangle over state budget billions

Requirement for two-thirds vote approval gives minority unusual power. The public is weighing in too.

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California’s high bar for getting a budget passed -- a two-thirds majority of the legislature, one of only three states to require that -- is once again coming under fire as both parties continue bickering about how to close a $41 billion gap. As interest groups on all sides of the political spectrum continue to hammer legislators, votes keep getting postponed as each new idea appears to have support which then suddenly vanishes.

The latest plan -- which was to include a series of steep tax increases and spending cuts which pleased neither party -- was scheduled for a Friday vote which got bumped to Saturday when it appeared that no rank-and-file Republican would vote for it.

“This vote will cause political difficulty for lawmakers,” says John Pitney, professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College. “Some Republicans will pay a price for supporting tax increases while some Democrats will pay a price for supporting spending cuts. “California is taking painful steps to balance its budget while Congress is vastly increasing the deficit in order to stimulate the economy.”

The latest proposal included proposed tax increases on personal income, retail sales, gasoline, and vehicle registration, while cutting a tax credit for dependents from $300 to $100. It would have also included $11 billion in borrowing, much of it by selling revenue rights to the California State Lottery. Dept. of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said that proposal would generate about $5 billion dollars next year.

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