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Report · December 2008

Are California’s Fiscal Constraints Institutional or Political?

Bruce E. Cain and George A. Mackenzie

California’s 2008 budget went into effect a record 85 days after its statutory deadline. This brought renewed criticism of the requirement that the budget pass with a legislative supermajority rather than a simple majority. The authors explore this and other constraints on the state’s budget process and find that California has placed more such restrictions on itself than any other state. Dating back to Proposition 13, these restrictions have generally not restrained revenues and expenditures as their authors may have hoped. Instead, state and local officials-and voters-have found ways to raise revenues and spend money by circumventing constraints.