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SKELTON: State's budget champs: Voters

  • State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, left, smiles as he talks with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, as the Senate debated the state budget on Friday in Sacramento. (RICH PEDRONCELLI / Associated Press)

The Capitol's three most powerful politicians danced a victory jig Tuesday to celebrate the pending passage of an on-time, balanced state budget. And they did deserve to enjoy the moment.

Spiffed up in dark suits, buttoned jackets and ties, Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, proudly performed for nine TV cameras in a news conference room packed with reporters.

“Ho-hum,” Steinberg joked. “Another on-time, balanced budget in California. This is the third year in a row and this one feels better than even the first two.” Yes, the California Legislature no longer is dysfunctional. Erase that word from its profile. It is functioning.

And give these three credit for congeniality and compromise.

But let's not forget where most of the credit belongs for a punctual, sensible budget. It's with another, oft-maligned group: the California voters.

True, voters frequently don't pay enough attention to what's happening in government capitals. Far too many don't even vote. Only 23.3 percent of Los Angeles city voters turned out to elect a new mayor last month.

But often the voters get it right.

Sacramento's hopefully new tradition of enacting on-time budgets that pass the smell test results directly from two ballot measures endorsed by voters.

The most important — one that has liberated the Legislature and governor from oppressive gridlock — was Proposition 25 in 2010. Approved by a 10.2-point margin, it eliminated the inane, decades-long requirement that budgets must be passed by a two-thirds legislative majority. Now they need only a simple majority.

For many years, the Legislature routinely ignored its June 15 constitutional deadline for budget passage and procrastinated long into summer, embarrassing itself and harassing public schools that couldn't plan and private vendors who couldn't collect from the state.

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