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Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]

Conflict-of-Interest Budgeting
Get rid of the 2/3 supermajority and get ready for more taxes...
[Ray Haynes] 2/3/04

SCENARIO 1 “Assemblyman Smith, vote for this budget, and our union will write you a check for $15,000. Not to your campaign – to you personally. Buy a new car, get your wife a Louis Vuitton purse, get braces for your kids—we don’t care. Just vote for this budget and the money is yours. I know you don’t like the new taxes and spending, but I can make it worth your while.”

SCENARIO 2 “I don’t care if there are taxes in this budget, we cannot afford to forfeit another month’s paycheck! We’ve exhausted our savings and we’re not going to be able to make our mortgage payment. We’ve got a stack of credit card bills and utility payments due and no money left to pay them. I know you don’t like the new taxes and spending, but it’s not worth going bankrupt for!”

What is the difference between the two scenarios? In one scenario, the personal financial pressure to pass a bad budget comes from a lobbyist. In the second, the financial pressure comes from the legislator’s wife. In the first, the financial incentive is illegal and the lobbyist could go to prison. Meanwhile, the second scenario could be on the verge of being encouraged in homes all over Sacramento.

Both scenarios include money being used as an incentive to get a legislator to support a budget. Both scenarios result in a legislator having to consider his own personal financial interests over the interests of his district or even the whole State of California. Both are wrong.

Proposition 56 will appear on the statewide ballot in the March election. The most important part of this initiative is the removal of the 2/3 supermajority requirement to pass budgets and raise taxes. This important protection for taxpayers was responsible for preventing as much as $12 billion in increased taxes in last year’s budget. Even though Republicans are greatly outnumbered in the legislature, our unified opposition to new taxes prevented the Democrats from getting their 2/3 vote and eventually they had to abandon their efforts to raise your taxes. Without the 2/3 rule, we would not have been able to stop them.

The government employee unions know that, and that’s why they have placed this initiative on the ballot. They also know that if they told you this initiative was designed to make it easier to raise your taxes, it would be defeated. That’s why they added a provision that says if the budget isn’t passed on time, legislators forfeit their pay—permanently. This is what their advertising campaign will highlight, and it polls very well among likely voters who like the idea of punishing legislators for “not doing their job.”

I don’t believe it is my job to pass a bad budget on time. My job is to get the citizens and taxpayers of my district the best possible budget that I can negotiate—no matter how long it takes. It doesn’t make sense to punish me for trying to get a better budget for you.

Some legislators might be influenced to vote for higher taxes and more spending because they cannot afford to forfeit their paychecks. They could be forced to choose between standing on principle or paying their mortgage.

My wife told me before I was first elected that if I ever voted to ban guns, kill babies, or raise taxes, I’d have to sleep on the couch, so I’m pretty sure I have the support of my spouse in standing on principle and opposing taxes even at the expense of my family’s own budget. Other members may not be as lucky. If we would return to a true part-time legislature as I have proposed in the past, this would be a moot point. We would then all be forced to have real jobs that paid our bills and perhaps even gave us some more grounding in the problems facing people in the real world. But this initiative creates a classic conflict of interest.

Most of the government ethics and conflict of interest laws in this state are designed to keep public policy issues separate from the politicians’ private economic interests. Nobody would allow government employee unions to personally pay off politicians in exchange for voting for higher taxes and spending. Why would anyone think it was a good idea to take money away from legislators personally when they won’t???

In essence, if Prop. 56 passes, it will probably be a moot issue, since the tax-and-spend liberals will be able to pass any budget they want, which will undoubtedly include billions in new taxes. So in the end, while they are trying to sell this initiative as a way to reduce politician’s paychecks, they will be making it so easy to pass a budget on time that it won’t be the politicians who lose money in the budget fight…it will be California taxpayers who wind up paying for this bogus reform.


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