Monday, September 15, 2008

Legislature approval rating at record low; budget deal in the works

The news today in Sacramento is that the legislative leaders and the governor have worked out a budget deal, 2 and a half months past the deadline. This has been the longest-delayed budget in the state's history, and according to a recent Field Poll, California's lawmakers are also earning record low marks in public opinion polls.

As reported in this article by Dan Smith in the Sept. 12 Sacramento Bee:

"This is the lowest job (approval) rating recorded for anybody from any institution," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the 62-year-old Field Poll. "No one has ever gotten this low. Even Richard Nixon."

The record budget standoff – now 74 days into the fiscal year – clearly has contributed to the Legislature's slide in the eyes of the public, DiCamillo said. Eighty-two percent say the budget impasse is a "very serious" problem, up from 68 percent in July.

DiCamillo told KQED's California Report last Friday that various proposals have been made in the past, to make the legislature part time, or do a constitutional convention in which "major changes could be made in terms of how the legislature functions". He went on to say that while those kinds of proposals seem off the wall, and perhaps not in the mainstream, "in an environment where voters are almost uniformly negative I think those kinds of things might get a greater hearing.”

According to the Bee article, "Jim Wunderman, president of the San Francisco-based Bay Area Council, a business group, recently called for a constitutional convention to overhaul the state's budgeting and tax systems, among other things." It was surprising to hear DiCamillo also comment on structural governmental reform for California. Perhaps this year's budget stalemate will help move such ideas forward.

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