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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Leno Says He'll Have Measure on Ballot to Kill 2/3 Threshold for State Budget Votes By 2010

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 9:58 AM

click to enlarge Sen. Mark Leno
  • Sen. Mark Leno
Mark Leno just told SF Weekly he's slept two hours out of the past 48 and he may or may not be hallucinating. He's tired, he's angry, and he's about to cash in some of his political connections and kick start a fund-raising drive to ensure it never happens again.

The San Francisco State Senator said he will soon hold a series of meetings with both labor and business interests to raise the serious money it will take to gather signatures and craft legislation so a ballot measure can be placed before California voters by 2010 hoping to lower the two-thirds threshold needed for legislators to approve budgets.

The two-thirds threshold has long been a sore point for Leno, but there's something about a week of all-night coercion sessions that brings out the worst in him -- and he pledged to kick this up a notch on his priorities list.

"Every year they extract, they extort. The minority ups the ante ever year and throws in issues completely non-budget related -- issues that could be passed outside of the budget by a simple majority vote," fumes Leno. Now that his Republican opponents have all signed the Grover Norquist no-taxes-never-ever pledge, the two-thirds requirement has become untenable, he continues. Dealing with this legislatively would, also, require a two-thirds vote -- and that's not going to happen -- so Leno and his allies will go the ballot measure route.

This approach has tried -- and failed -- before. In 2004, Proposition 56 attempted to lower the threshold for legislative budget votes. But the prop also would have lowered the two-thirds threshold needed to enact new taxes, a disastrous political tie-in. Leno bemoans that the consultant hired by Prop. 56 backers felt the only way to sell voters on the measure was to depict how ineffective life in the legislature had become thanks to the two-thirds threshold. This was done via commercials portraying lawmakers engaging in food fights in the legislative chambers. Classy. Meanwhile, opponents simply stated "If you want Democrats to raise your taxes, vote yes on Prop. 56." Guess what happened? In a victory for bitter irony, two-thirds of the voters rejected the proposition.

Leno feels that voters now know the ramifications of the threshold are more dire than wasting food. Minus the portion about taxes, he feels it's a political winner; he says recent polls by the Public Policy Institute of California showed 54 percent of potential voters backing the plan.

"There's not a city council, a school board, or a county board of supervisors in California that requires a two-thirds majority," he says. "Nor does the U.S. Congress when voting on their budgets. It's just Rhode Island, Arkansas, and California.

"I will be meeting with like-minded interests who have the funds to cover the costs of gathering the signatures to get this on the ballot. I can't tell you if it will be June or November -- but it will be 2010."  

Photo   |   baskyes

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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