Ballot Box Budgeting in California: The Bane of the Golden State or an Overstated Problem?

57 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2011

See all articles by Jessica A. Levinson

Jessica A. Levinson

Loyola Law School Los Angeles

Robert M. Stern

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2010


California's fiscal crisis is a source of national, if not international concern. The question is: what caused the state's fiscal crisis? This article addresses one potential cause of the state's current fiscal predicament -- ballot box budgeting. This term refers to legislative measures and initiatives that are placed on the ballot and affect the state's budget. This article will focus on the benefits and detriments of budgeting by initiative. It will also explore the differences between ballot box budgeting and the process of legislative budgeting.

This article proposes that all measures calling for increased funding identify funding sources. Further, measures that reduce revenue should identify which program(s) will be cut. Also, any measures that call for the floating of bonds should identify any program(s) that will be cut or taxes that will be increased in order to pay for these bonds in the short term. When making fiscal policy, whether it is by initiative or by legislative measure, the consequences of those decisions must be made clear to the voters. In addition, this article calls for the reduction of the requirement that two-thirds of the members of both legislative houses pass a budget. This requirement should be reduced to fifty-five percent, allowing lawmakers to pass a budget without dissolving into partisan wrangling. This article also makes suggestions for ways to improve the initiative process which would be beneficial to the process of budgeting by initiative.

Suggested Citation

Levinson, Jessica A. and Stern, Robert M., Ballot Box Budgeting in California: The Bane of the Golden State or an Overstated Problem? (2010). Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 4, p. 689, Summer 2010; Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2011-44. Available at SSRN:

Jessica A. Levinson (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School Los Angeles ( email )

919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
United States

Robert M. Stern

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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