Senator Patricia Bates Co-Authors Measure to Close Loopholes in "No Budget, No Pay" Law

Recent Budget Shenanigans Expose Weaknesses of 2010 Initiative
Thursday, September 17, 2015

Calling for an end to the political tricks that Californians thought they ended when they approved Proposition 25 in 2010, Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) has co-authored Senator Bob Huff’s (R-San Dimas) Senate Constitutional Amendment 10 (SCA 10), known as The Budget Accountability and Transparency Act of 2015.

“In 2010, Californians approved a new law that they thought would send lawmakers a clear message – pass a state budget on time or lose your paychecks,” said Bates. “But the majority party’s passage of several budget ‘trailer bills’ more than three months after it passed the ‘final’ 2015-16 budget makes a mockery of the voters’ will. That’s why I have co-authored The Budget Accountability and Transparency Act of 2015 to close the loopholes that made these sneaky maneuvers possible in the first place.”

The need for SCA 10 was again demonstrated last Friday, when the Senate’s majority party misused Proposition 25 to push through a series of new amendments to the budget – called trailer bills – on the floor after the June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a budget.

After years of delayed budgets, California’s voters approved Proposition 25 to require state legislators to forfeit their pay if they fail to pass a budget on time. Prop. 25 also ended the previous requirement that two-thirds of state lawmakers had to approve the budget in order for it to be enacted.

SCA 10 would:

  • Require all budget trailer bills to be in print for at least three days for public review prior to a vote;
  • Require the budget bill to be enacted by June 15 in order for legislators and the governor to get paid; and
  • Mandate all budget trailer bills to be enacted by June 15.

Former State Controller and current State Treasurer John Chiang believed the Legislature was playing fast and loose with Prop. 25 in 2011 when he suspended legislators’ pay after Governor Brown vetoed the budget because it was unbalanced.

The Senate’s majority party took the then-controller to court. During the hearing, a lawyer for the controller told the court, “You could take a piece of paper and write, 'We estimate revenue will meet spending.’ And you could wrap it around a ham sandwich, and you could send it over to the governor, and you could call it a budget. And you could keep getting paid. But it's still a ham sandwich."

Unfortunately, the court ruled against the controller because the current rules set in place by Prop. 25 allow the majority party to continue to play games with the budget. In fact, there are still ongoing negotiations involving billions of state budget dollars for health care and transportation that were supposed to be resolved before legislators collected their paychecks.

SCA 10 would close the loopholes in Prop. 25 and ensure that lawmakers do not cheat by passing budget-related bills long after the constitutional deadline.