California is on the verge of becoming a one-party state — but policy gridlock isn’t going anywhere soon.
Democrats now hold all the statewide offices and have a shot Tuesday at achieving two-thirds majorities in the Legislature. Yet they are far from being able to unilaterally resolve California’s fiscal logjam.
For the past decade, California’s fiscal picture has been awash in red ink, legislative stalemates, borrowing and a lot of budgetary gimmickry. Three governors in a row, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, hit a stone wall in trying to resolve the state’s structural deficit—the imbalance between ongoing spending and available tax revenues — that has persisted in the $10-billion plus range.
Though both houses of the state Legislature have been securely in Democratic hands, they are unable to address these serious problems. Under the state constitution, a two-thirds supermajority has been needed to pass the budget and raise taxes, which gives the small Republican caucuses de facto veto power.
California voters finally reduced the budget vote requirement to a simple majority in 2010. But they kept the two-thirds hurdle for new revenues. It is this last piece of Republican leverage that Democrats hope to erase on Tuesday.