Commentary: Give 'Em the Boot

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, August 15, 2008
As a newspaper reporter, I have to meet deadlines. I do it everyday.
So do most people. If you blow your deadline at work, again and again, you’re out of a job.
Legislators? They miss deadlines almost every year and there’s no consequence. In 16 out of the last 20 years, state lawmakers have missed the constitutional date for passing a budget. This year, they are 47 days late, and guess what? No consequence.
How do lawmakers get away with this? Well, they’ve set up a rigged system on redistricting. That guarantees them safe seats. California also has a two-thirds vote requirement for passing a budget. That makes it tougher to cut a deal. To top it off, lawmakers have no financial incentive to meet the budget deadline. Sure, their paychecks are suspended when a budget is late, but they know they’ll get paid back later.
This needs to change. Last week, Gov. Schwarzenegger floated the idea of no payback for lawmakers for every day the budget is late. It’s a great idea. No perks. No per diems. Put a boot on their state cars until a budget is signed. With the state threatening to run out of money, there must be a consequence for lawmakers who fail to do their jobs.
Stuart Leavenworth writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.