California Proposition 25, Majority Vote for Legislature to Pass the Budget (2010)

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California Proposition 25, the Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget Act, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved.

Proposition 25 ends the previous requirement in the state that two-thirds of the members of the California State Legislature had to vote in favor of the state's budget in order for the budget to be enacted. Proposition 25 also requires state legislators to forfeit their pay in years where they have failed to pass a budget in a timely fashion.

Supporters of the initiative called it the Majority Vote Budget Initiative.[1]

Election results

See also: 2010 ballot measure election results
Proposition 25 (Budget Vote Requirement)
Approveda Yes 5,262,052 55.1%
These are the final results for this election as per the California Secretary of State's statement of election results.


Withholding of legislative pay

In May 2011, Evan Halper and Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times wrote:

"Voters were assured that a ballot measure they passed last fall would punish lawmakers when the state budget is late, docking their pay and perks for every day that a spending plan is overdue.

Now the legislators' deadline is less than a month away, and the budget is nowhere near complete — but their checks could keep coming even if they make no more progress.

Fine print in the initiative, drafted by a labor coalition whose main interest was that it also gave Sacramento's Democratic majority more control over state spending, may have contained an escape hatch.

The law stipulates that merely passing a budget bill — it says nothing about whether the budget is balanced, as California's Constitution also requires — is enough to keep state pay rolling into lawmakers' bank accounts. The Legislature passed a budget bill in March that closed about half of the deficit. "The language … said the budget bill must be passed," said Greg Schmidt, the Senate's chief administrative officer. "Technically, the budget bill was passed on March 17."[2]

However, John Chiang, the California Controller, announced on June 2 that unless the state legislature passes a balanced budget by June 15, the deadline specified in the California Constitution, he will start docking their pay. He said, "In passing Proposition 25 last November, voters clearly stated they expect their representatives to make the difficult decisions needed to resolve any budget shortfalls by the mandatory deadline, or be penalized. I will enforce the voters' demand."[3]

On June 22, Chiang announced that he was following through with his promise. Legislators did pass a budget, but according to Chiang, the budget they passed had a $1.85 billion deficit, and was therefore not a legal budget under the state's requirement that its budget must be balanced. Therefore, Chiang said, there is functionally no budget and by the terms of Proposition 25, he is required to stop paying the state's legislators. The impact to individual members of the California State Legislature will be about $400/day. In Chiang's statement, he said that parts of the budget the legislature did pass were "miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished."[4]

Mike Gatto, a member of the California State Assembly, was one of several state legislators angered by Chiang's action. Gatto said, "John Chiang just wants to sit there and beat up on the unpopular kids. I now have to explain to my wife and daughter that we won't be able to pay the bills because a politician chose to grandstand at our expense."[4]

The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times had endorsed Proposition 25, but when Chiang announced on June 22 that he was stopping state legislative pay under its terms, the editorial board came out swinging against Chiang's action, referring to "an ill-advised provision" of Proposition 25 as well as to "poorly worded or deceptive measures with unforeseen consequences."[4]

"Hallucinatory revenue forecast"

The editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune (which had urged a "no" vote on Proposition 25) asserted in November 2011 that Proposition 25 has made "things worse." They referred to what they described as a "hallucinatory revenue forecast" and said:[5]

"But five months after the state budget was adopted on the eve of the 2011-12 fiscal year, Proposition 25 on balance appears to have encouraged dysfunction and poor decision-making, not reduced these scourges. After missing the initial deadline for passing a budget, what lawmakers came up with to avoid losing more pay is one of the most gimmicky and legally tenuous spending plans that California has ever seen – which is saying a lot."[5]

"Special interest favors"

Before the vote on Proposition 25, Dan Walters, a senior political reporter and columnist for the Sacramento Bee, wrote, "Thus, it could be a vehicle for secretly passing special-interest favors that may have no real budgetary purpose. Conceptually, it's a step forward. In practice, however, it could have insidious and corrosive consequences."[6]

In June 2012, Walters wrote that his prediction had come true:

"We saw some of that legislative skulduggery in the 2011 budget, the first enacted under Proposition 25. But we've seen even more this year, as dozens of so-called trailer bills were drafted in secrecy, made technically legal only by including token $1,000 appropriations, and then quickly enacted with scant, if any, public notice."
"One was aimed solely at making it more likely that voters would approve Gov. Jerry Brown's sales and income tax ballot measure by jumping it over others to the top of the November ballot. Several others were giveaways to public employee unions, which are the Democrats' chief source of funds for their own campaigns and the tax measure.
"The process was so blatant that legislative leaders such as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg admitted that secrecy was employed to thwart opponents of bills from marshaling legislative opposition."[6]

Ballot title and summary

See also: Ballot titles, summaries and fiscal statements for California's 2010 ballot propositions

The ballot title, ballot summary and fiscal impact statement provided by the Office of the Attorney General of California in a document dated July 2 are:

Ballot title:

Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass Budget and Budget-Related Legislation from Two-Thirds to a Simple Majority.
Retains Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Taxes.
Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Official summary:

  • Changes the legislative vote requirement necessary to pass the state budget and spending bills related to the budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.
  • Provides that if the Legislature fails to pass a budget bill by June 15, all members of the Legislature will permanently forfeit any reimbursement for salary and expenses for every day until the day the Legislature passes a budget bill.

Estimated fiscal impact:

  • In some years, the contents of the state budget and related legislation could be changed due to the lower legislative vote requirements in this measure. The extent of these changes would depend on a number of factors, including the state's financial circumstances, the composition of the Legislature, and its future actions.
  • In any year the Legislature has not sent a budget to the Governor on time, there would be a reduction in state legislator compensation costs of about $50,000 for each late day.

Constitutional changes

California Constitution

Proposition 25 amended Section 12 of Article IV of the California Constitution.

The primary change to Section 12 of Article IV was the addition of a new subsection (e) that says:

(e) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law or of this Constitution, the budget bill and other bills providing for appropriations related to the budget bill may be passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the journal, a majority of the membership concurring, to take effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor or upon a date specified in the legislation. Nothing in this subdivision shall affect the vote requirement for appropriations for the public schools contained in subdivision (d) of this section and in subdivision (b) of Section 8 of this article.
(2) For purposes of this section, “other bills providing for appropriations related to the budget bill” shall consist only of bills identified as related to the budget in the budget bill passed by the Legislature.

and a new subsection (h) that says:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law or of this Constitution, including subdivision (c) of this section, Section 4 of this article, and Sections 4 and 8 of Article III, in any year in which the budget bill is not passed by the Legislature by midnight on June 15, there shall be no appropriation from the current budget or future budget to pay any salary or reimbursement for travel or living expenses for Members of the Legislature during any regular or special session for the period from midnight on June 15 until the day that the budget bill is presented to the Governor. No salary or reimbursement for travel or living expenses forfeited pursuant to this subdivision shall be paid retroactively.

See Text of Proposition 25, the "On-Time Budget Act of 2010" for the complete text of all changes that Proposition 25 made to California's Constitution.


"Yes on 25" campaign logo


Supporters of Proposition 25 include:

Arguments were submitted to the official California Voter Guide on behalf of a "yes" vote on Proposition 25, as were rebuttals to the arguments provided by Prop 25 opponents. The signers of these arguments were:[9]

Arguments in favor

TV ad of "Yes on 25" campaign

Arguments in favor of Proposition 25 submitted to the California Secretary of State for the California Voter Guide say:

  • It holds legislators accountable if they fail to pass a budget on time.
  • It "breaks legislative gridlock by allowing a simple majority of legislators to approve the budget -- just like in 47 other states."
  • Late budgets waste money.
  • Proposition 25 preserves the requirement that a supermajority vote is required to raise taxes.

Donors for

Main article: Donations to California's 2010 ballot propositions

Five campaign committees filed on behalf of a "no" vote on Proposition 25. Cumulatively, these committees raised about $15.2 million.

These donations of $100,000 or over went to the primary campaign committee favoring a "yes" vote on Prop 25. That committee was called "Yes on 25, Citizens for An On-Time Budget Sponsored by Teachers, Nurses, Firefighters and Other Public Groups"[10]

Donor Amount
California Federation of Teachers $3,447,850
AFL-CIO $1,625,000
AFSCME $1,400,000
SEIU (including CSCSE) $1,300,000
California Teachers Association $1,261,831
California School Employees Association $1,050,000
Alliance for a Better California $780,583
California Faculty Association $607,500
Yes on 24, The Tax Fairness Act $500,000
Professional Engineers in California Government $336,175
Stephen M. Silberstein $250,000
California Nurses Association $150,000
California Democratic State Central Committee $100,000

See also: Vendors and consultants to California's 2010 ballot proposition campaigns

Political consultants who provided paid services to the "Yes on 25" campaign included:


"No on 25" campaign logo


In an appearance at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce on July 26, Arnold Schwarzenegger signalled his opposition to Proposition 25: "Even doing the budget, I even don't believe in doing the budget by a simple majority. Because if you do a budget by simple majority, again, there is one party that will make all the decisions. I think it needs the input of both of the parties because you can see the first thing (Democrats) did was come up with borrowing or a tax increase."[11]

Arguments were submitted to the official California Voter Guide on behalf of a "no" vote on Proposition 25, as were rebuttals to the arguments provided by Prop 25 supporters. The signers of these arguments were:[9]

Arguments against

Steve Rider, San Diego Tax Fighters, arguing for a "no" vote

One main argument made by opponents of Proposition 25 is that regardless of the claim of its supporters that it would not allow taxes to be hiked without a supermajority vote in the state legislature, there's a "poison pill" provision in the language of Prop 25 that actually would allow tax increases to be enacted with a simple majority vote.

The clause in Proposition 25 that opponents say would allow this says, "Notwithstanding any other provision of law … bills providing for appropriations related to the budget may be passed [by] a majority." Another section of Proposition 25 says, "This measure will not change the two-thirds vote requirement for the Legislature to raise taxes." On August 5, 2010, a Superior Court judge ruled that Prop 25 did not maintain the 2/3rds requirement to raise taxes, but the Superior Court's decision was reversed by the California 3rd District Court of Appeals on August 9, 2010, allowing the ballot language to remain intact.

Steve Merksamer, attorney for the opponents, says that the "notwithstanding any other provision..." clause means that Prop 25 is "a fraud on the voters."[8]

Opponents of Proposition 25 also made a series of arguments about why they think a "no" vote for Proposition 25 is advisable in the state's official Voter Guide. The main themes expressed there are:

  • It "allows politicians to circumvent our Constitution’s two-thirds vote requirement for passing new or increased taxes by allowing taxes to be enacted as part of the budget with a bare majority vote."[9]
  • Proposition 25 hides its real motivation in the fine print. The real objective of the supporters of the measure is to make it easier for the California government to spend more money and raise taxes and this is being hidden behind a smokescreen: "The hidden agenda in Proposition 25 makes it easier for politicians to raise taxes, spend money we don’t have and incur more debt."[9]
  • Prop 25 takes away voter rights because it eliminates the current right of Californians to use the veto referendum process to force a vote on some budget and tax items. "Our ability to reject hidden taxes is California taxpayers’ last line of defense against a misguided Legislature. We cannot let the politicians take away that right." (California Taxpayers' Association).[9]
  • The California State Legislature would be further enabled in their spending habits: "[Prop 25] it easier for politicians to increase their lavish expense accounts. Currently, they can increase these perks only with a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. But under Proposition 25, they would be able to increase them with a bare majority vote."[9]
  • Allows the state legislature to claim that the budget is balanced when in fact it is not.[9]

Donors against

Main article: Donations to California's 2010 ballot propositions

The main committee opposing Proposition 25 was called "Stop Hidden Taxes -- No on 25 / Yes on 26, a Coalition of Taxpayers, Employers, Small Businesses, Environmental Experts, Good Government Groups, Minorities, Farmers and Vineyards." Because the main "No on 25" campaign committee was simultaneously the main "Yes on 26" committee, it is not possible to say how much of this campaign committee's finances were directed at urging a "no" vote on Prop 25 versus urging a "Yes" vote on Prop 26.[12]

According to a Maplight analysis, a total of $17,753,067, including large and small donations, was given to "Stop Hidden Taxes" through November 5, 2010.[13]

Through November 30, 2010, these donations of $100,000 or over went to the main campaign committee that simultaneously favored a "no" vote on Proposition 25 and a "yes" vote on Proposition 26.

Donor Amount
Chevron $3,750,000
California Chamber of Commerce $3,395,000
American Beverage Association $2,450,000
Philip Morris $1,750,000
Small Business Action Committee $1,430,000
Anheuser-Busch $625,000
Conoco Phillips $525,000
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association $431,948
Aera Energy $350,000
MillerCoors $350,000
Wine Institute $330,500
Exxon Mobil $300,000
Occidental Petroleum $250,000
Chartwell Partners $250,000
California Association of Realtors $200,000
Shell Oil $200,000
New Majority California $200,000
Kilroy Realty $150,000
Crown Imports $130,000
California Beer & Beverage Distributors $100,000

See also: Vendors and consultants to California's 2010 ballot proposition campaigns

Political consultants who provided paid services to the "No on 25/Yes on 26" campaign included:



     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

See also: Polls, 2010 ballot measures
Date of Poll Pollster Support Oppose Undecided Number polled
June 22-July 5, 2010 Field 65% 20% 15% 1,005
September 14-21, 2010 Field 46% 30% 24% 599
September 19-26, 2010 PPIC 48% 35% 17% 2,004
October 2-4, 2010 Reuters/lpsos 58% 29% 13% 600
October 10-17, 2010 PPIC 49% 34% 17% 2,002
October 14-26, 2010 Field for the Sacramento Bee 48% 31% 21% 1,501

Editorial opinion

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Local measures
See also: Endorsements of California ballot measures, 2010

"Yes on 25"

  • Lompoc Record: "Voters should approve Proposition 25, warts and all. We don’t take this position out of sympathy for labor unions, but out of respect for democracy, and the ideal of majority rule."[14]
  • Los Angeles Times: "Supermajority budgeting rules served a purpose in a less partisan age, but now they have all but brought state government to a standstill."[15]
  • Oakland Tribune: "Proposition 25, we believe, will not lead to majority-vote tax increase, but will significantly improve the chances that future California budgets will pass on time and deserves a yes vote on Nov. 2."[16]
  • San Francisco Chronicle: "The two-thirds threshold for passage of a budget is not the only source of dysfunction in Sacramento, but it has been a significant hurdle to allowing the California Legislature to perform its most basic duty."[17]
  • Santa Rosa Press Democrat: "California needs to give its leaders a chance to succeed or fail. Leaving them to do nothing is not working. The Press Democrat recommends a yes vote on Proposition 25."[18]

"No on 25"

  • Bakersfield Californian: "Proposition 25 is bankrolled almost exclusively by public employee unions that would like to further empower their patrons in the Legislature: Democrats who wouldn't break a sweat coming up with a 51 percent majority. That's not reform -- that's making sure the fix is in, and it threatens to pile on even more of the special-interest spending that has crippled Sacramento."[19]
  • Long Beach Press-Telegram: "Don't be fooled by Proposition 25 supporters' claims. Delinquent budgets are not just the result of the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass the budget. It's because legislators tend to vote their party line, when compromises should be made starting in January, when the governor releases his version of the budget. Compromise and common concern for education, infrastructure and other funding should be enough of an incentive to pass a budget on time - with a two-thirds majority."[20]
  • Los Angeles Daily News: "Proposition 25, which would lower the legislative limit to pass the state budget to a simple majority, gives the ruling political party even more power than it has already."[21]
  • Orange County Register: "The effect of simple-majority approval would be to grant almost complete control over the budget to tax-and-spend Democrats' large majorities in the state Senate and Assembly. Some believe legislators could then enact taxes in a budget bill with a mere majority vote. The measure also would eliminate voters' right to put referendum measures on the ballot to reject new fees or fee increases imposed by the budget, and make it easier for legislators to increase their travel and expense accounts by simple majority vote."[22]
  • Press Enterprise: "Californians should not confuse half-baked ideas with real reform. The main requirement for improving the state's terrible budgeting is a Legislature focused on responsible fiscal oversight. Proposition 25 offers an illusory fix in place of that missing ingredient, and thus voters should reject this measure."[23]
  • Sacramento Bee: "...there are omissions and provisions in Proposition 25 that make this initiative difficult to support. Other states with majority- vote budgets have two-year budget cycles, rainy day funds and provisions that allow a governor to reduce spending when revenue drops. If Proposition 25 had truly been the product of bipartisan negotiations among reform-minded Californians, it would stand a better chance of passage, and put to rest concerns about this being purely a power play by Democrats and their union supporters.[24]
  • San Bernardino Sun: "Proponents of the measure point to all the other states that get by perfectly well with having a simple majority pass budgets. But all of those states include other good financial provisions that California lacks - and may never get if Proposition 25 passes."[25]
  • San Diego Union-Tribune: "According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, while 'the measure states that its intent is not to change the existing two-thirds vote requirement regarding state taxes,' it allows the Legislature to use simple majority votes to pass bills that lawmakers decree are 'related to the budget in the budget bill.' Opponents say this is an intentional loophole opening the door to massive tax hikes. Backers say this is a phony issue. The LAO is in the middle, which should make taxpayers nervous."[26]
  • San Gabriel Valley Tribune: "The current inevitable delays are costly in so many ways. But we fear the tyranny of a slight majority in the Legislature."[27]
  • Ventura County Star: "While The Star shares the public’s disapproval of the Legislature’s failures, adopting a simple-majority rule is a poor solution to this problem. Even if one concedes that two-thirds — 66.7 percent of lawmakers in each chamber — is a too-high hurdle, settling for a simple majority is too low."[28]

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements

James C. Harrison and Thomas A. Willis filed the initial language for the proposal with the California Secretary of State on October 14, 2009.

09-0057 was given its official ballot title on December 9, 2009, with a circulation deadline of May 10, 2010.

694,354 signatures were required for approval. Supporters submitted about 1.1 million signatures in early May.

Kimball Petition Management was paid $2,626,808 to collect the signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.[29]

See also: 2010 ballot measure petition signature costs

External links

Suggest a link

Basic information


See also: 2010 ballot measure campaign websites


See also: 2010 ballot measure campaign websites

Additional reading


  1. California Majority Report, "With Missed Deadline, Proponents of Measure to Eliminate 2/3 Budget Requirement Make A Push," June 16, 2010
  2. Los Angeles Times, "Sacramento lawmakers may not be punished for late budget," May 20, 2011
  3. Los Angeles Times, "California lawmakers will lose pay if budget isn't passed by June 15, state controller says," June 3, 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Los Angeles Times, "California Legislature to forfeit pay, Chiang says," June 22, 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1 San Diego Union Tribune, "Did Prop. 25 make things worse, not better?," November 30, 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 Modesto Bee, "Dan Walters: California's budget vote change is biting back," June 29, 2012
  7. California Progress Report, "Backing Ballot Measures On The Budget," July 20, 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 Los Angeles Times, "Proposition 25 is the real deal," July 26, 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Arguments for and against Proposition 25 from the official California Voter's Guide
  10. Donations of $5,000 or more to the "Yes on 25" campaign committee
  11. Fresno Bee, "Capitol Alert: Schwarzenegger opposes changing budget vote requirement," July 26, 2010
  12. Donations of $5,000 or more to the "No on 25" campaign committee
  13. Maplight, "California Proposition Contribution Totals", November 5, 2010
  14. Lompoc Record, "Confronting the need for majority rule," October 5, 2010
  15. Los Angeles Times, "Yes, and no," September 30, 2010
  16. Oakland Tribune, "Vote yes on Proposition 25, let majority pass state budget," September 15, 2010
  17. San Francisco Chronicle, "San Francisco Chronicle editorial: Yes on Proposition 25, No on Proposition 26," September 19, 2010
  18. Santa Rosa Press Democrat, "Need to reform budget process is more evident now than ever," September 2, 2010
  19. Bakersfield Californian, "Make Legislature fix it: No on Props. 25, 26," October 4, 2010
  20. Long Beach Press-Telegram, "No on Proposition 25," October 7, 2010
  21. Los Angeles Daily News, "Power plays: Propositions 25 and 26 - they're both bad policy dressed up as reform," September 26, 2010
  22. Orange County Register, "Our picks for the propositions," October 5, 2010
  23. Press Enterprise, "No on 25," September 15, 2010
  24. Sacramento Bee, "No on Props. 26 and 26 - partisan power plays," September 27, 2010 (dead link)
  25. San Bernardino Sun, "Bad policies posing as reform," October 14, 2010
  26. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Proposition 25 a recipe for financial disaster," September 13, 2010
  27. San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "ur View: No on Proposition 25 - keep two-thirds budget vote," October 6, 2010
  28. Ventura County Star, "No on Proposition 25, it's the wrong cure," September 14, 2010
  29. List of expenditures of the "Yes on 25" campaign