Sunday, May 10, 2009

Changing the 2/3 Rules

On the Secretary of State website, info about initiative petitions that are currently circulating show 2 that deal with the 2/3 rule. Or, to be clear, one (08-0022) deals with reducing the 2/3 rule to 55% for passing budgets, and one (08-0023) deals with reducing the 2/3 rule to 55% for both passing budgets and for increasing taxes (except property taxes).

It seems pointless to deal with the 2/3 budget rule without the 2/3 taxes rule. Here's why: We are staring at a structural deficit of $20 billion, so even if we had the ability to pass a budget with 55% (or even 50%), it wouldn't matter if we couldn't pass the revenue increases necessary to fund it. If Republicans retain their legislative veto over tax increases, then they control the budget - even if a budget can pass with 50% of votes. They will ensure that it's not funded.

As to the politics of what to put in the initiative: Anti-government forces are going to purposely conflate the two issues so that there may be little benefit to only dealing with the "less controversial" 2/3 budget rule. (In fact, I hear they are already doing this.) Why go running scared from these guys? No matter what you do to appease them, it will never stop them from unleashing their worst on you. Nothing to be gained.

As to the right threshold - 50%, 55% or something else, I say base it on principle and change it to majority rule. Picking some arbitrary number between 50% and 67% (such as 55% in this case) makes the change explicitly political (eliminating the Republican veto). This would seem to undermine efforts to make these changes be about budget reform, instead of partisan warfare. Also, trying to establish a different (albeit lower) supermajority for these votes would acknowledge that there should be some supermajority bar to raising taxes (without a corresponding requirement for lowering them I might add). These types of votes need to be taken off the pedestal that Republican anti-government types have put them on.

I won't let perfect be the enemy of the good, so if 55% is going to be what we have to get behind, I suspect I can deal with it. However, I think not addressing the 2/3 tax increase rule is counterproductive, and I just can't see myself supporting such an effort.



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