Brown Proposes Baseball Arbitration Budget Plan

Sep20

On a recent appearance on “Good Day L.A.,” the popular morning show on KTTV Fox 11, Jerry Brown endorsed the framework of the “Baseball Arbitration Budget Plan,” first proposed by political consultant Richie Ross on Calbuzz.

The proposal is designed to short circuit the annual bitter and sustained gridlock over California’s finances, if no compromise budget agreement can   be reached in a specified time; at that point, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature would each put forth their own version of a spending plan and both plans would be presented to voters, who would select one or the other as the state’s fiscal blueprint for the next budget cycle.

This either-or process is similar to that used by Major League Baseball to resolve contract disputes between players and teams.

In the version presented by Brown, responding to questions posed by Good Day L.A.’s Jillian Reynolds and Dorothy Lucey (pictured below), the governor could also prepare a third budget document, which he said should be on a special election ballot.

The interview took place last Wednesday,  with Brown motor-mouthing as if someone had spiked his green tea. The interview began with a discussion of the TV ads being aired by him and Republican rival Meg Whitman; the hosts did not appear to be aware of  Ross’s Calbuzz proposal.

Reynolds: …but when do you get to the (crosstalk), I hear you, but I’d like to hear the issues.

Brown: Okay, the issue, the issue is, that the state, the Republicans and the Democrats can’t work together, they’re just in polar opposite positions. One says ‘don’t cut,’ one says, ‘don’t tax.’

Lucey: But how are you going to pull them together? I asked Meg this, Schwarzenegger obviously couldn’t do it.

Brown: I’ll tell you how. The governor usually waits and releases their budget in January. Then they come back in June and start talking to the leadership. I’m going to start in November – the week after the election I’m going to call all 120 (legislators) together and I’m going to work them, every day if I have to, until we get the budget solution .

If they can’t agree on a solution, I’m going to ask the Republicans, ‘give me your best offer,’ and I’m going to ask the Democrats, ‘give me yours,’ and I’m going to put mine in – we’ll go to the people and get a vote at a special election. (cross talk) That’s how we’ll resolve it.

Majority rules: Brown also confirmed that he supports Proposition 25 on the November ballot. The initiative calls for the current requirement that a budget must receive a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, a state constitutional provision dating to the FDR era, be reduced to a majority vote.

Following up Brown’s special election remarks, Steve Edwards, the program’s host, noted that Whitman opposes Prop. 25, which Brown answered by saying:

Well, she doesn’t believe in the majority. I’m going to vote for it. It’s not a cure-all, but I say, ‘yes, the majority rules in this country’ – that’s the budget, not taxes – and when the people of Oakland voted for more money by 70 percent, Meg said the people of Oakland were wrong, they don’t have a right to vote because Meg says, ‘I know best,’ and I don’t think that’s the right answer.

Taken together, Brown’s statements on Prop. 25, and on the statewide vote process for resolving budget deadlock, represent the most substantive commentary by either candidate about their ideas for resolving the now-routine delays in passing a budget; in the current impasse, the longest in history, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature do not seem close to a solution nearly three months past the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

The Ross Reform Plan: Ross, a longtime Sacramento-based consultant, first raised the innovative idea of using a baseball arbitration-style popular vote to settle partisan differences over the budget in a Calbuzz guest commentary on May 18, 2009.  In his piece, he noted that Governor Schwarzenegger had used the process in helping to resolve disputes over Indian gaming casinos between tribes and local governments.

Unlike most arbitrations, in which a neutral finder of fact weighs the two sides, looks for middle ground, then crafts a solution to impose on the parties, baseball’s version is an all-or-nothing proposition. The arbitrator looks at the final position of each side and chooses one. Each side only knows its own final position, not the other. One side’s position is chosen in its entirety. The other is rejected…

Saying he believed the idea would work best after adoption of a two-year budget cycle, Ross proposed three steps that would follow:

2. Start the fiscal year on December 1. There’s nothing magical about the current July 1 start. The Feds start in October. A lot of businesses start in January. So let’s move the state’s to December 1 of the even-numbered years.

3. Make Republicans and Democrats write a complete budget. Right now, Republicans hang on to the 2/3rds majority requirement because they say it’s the only way they can be relevant. But they never have to write a complete budget plan, they just potshot the Democrats’ plan. That’s an accountability-free zone. And Democrats tell their groups how they wish they could raise the taxes to save programs but the Republicans won’t let them.

4. Put both budgets on the general election ballot — baseball arbitration style. Neither needs a majority. The one with the most votes wins.

Voters and the “winners” will live with the outcome for two years. If we like the budget we had, we’ll reward them with re-election and another budget. If they sold us on a turkey, we’ll punish them at the polls and probably give the other side’s budget a chance.

Noting that nothing changed in Sacramento in the nearly year-and-a-half since his piece first ran, Calbuzz re-published it on August 31, under a headline that said: “Ross Baseball Budget Plan: Now More Than Ever.”

What would eMeg do: David Siders’ strong piece in Sunday’s SacBee examined the crucial question about Whitman’s candidacy: whether the command-and-control management skills of CEO are useful, or even suitable, for an executive position in government, which requires more persuasion, tact and consensus-building.

It’s instructive that during the campaign, Whitman has done plenty of bashing of the governor and legislators for being late with the budget, but offered no solutions much beyond threats to crack heads. Siders reports:

When asked in Folsom how she would address the state budget impasse, one of the most persistent problems in Sacramento, Whitman said, “I would have chained them (legislative leaders) to the desk to get this done.”

“This is about leadership,” she said.

Corzine never knew what hit him: The killer quote in the Siders piece came from recently ousted New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who was first elected to office on bold promises that he would bring his private business skills to bear on government, after a successful career at Goldman-Sachs:

Jon Corzine, the former Goldman Sachs executive, senator and one-term governor of New Jersey told Newsweek this year that he, like Whitman, thought “the managerial skill set would be helpful.”

It wasn’t, he said.

“The idea that you’re accountable to a bottom line and to a payroll in managing a business – it gives voters the confidence that you have the right skills (to govern),” Corzine told Newsweek. “But it’s 20,000 people vs. 9 million. I don’t think candidates get the scale and scope of what governing is. You don’t have the flexibility you imagined. There’s no exact translation.”

Are you listening, Meg?


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There are 4 comments for this post

  1. avatar tegrat says:

    Not that I particularly agree with Ross’ suggestion, but an improvement would be to rank order the votes. Then if none get a majority the second choice of those who voted for the least popular budget comes into play. This helps insure the most acceptable outcome to the most people and is ideal for this type of situation. It should also encourage the Republicans to support such a plan since they would most likely benefit (assuming they win the Governorship, otherwise they’ll just have to suck it up and admit they are the minority view).

  2. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    Corzine hits the nail on the head. Schwarzenegger thought he’d use his Hollywood star power to wow legislators. But they have constituents at home and weren’t as subject to his screen persona as he expected. Corzine didn’t realize that having employees is different than having a co-equal branch of government. And Whitman forgets how long it would take her to bash the heads of millions of California voters. Because that’s what we’re talking about. And Corzine is right there too. It gives you a lot less flexibility.

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