Reporting from Sacramento — Legislative leaders Thursday unveiled a long-promised plan to overhaul state government, the linchpin of which is asking voters to allow a simple majority of lawmakers to pass a budget.
Currently, a two-thirds vote is needed, which means some Republican support is required. The new proposal would let Democrats pass spending plans without a single Republican vote under the current makeup of the Legislature.
The catch? They need a two-thirds vote -- including some Republicans in both houses -- to put the question to voters in November.
Assembly Republican leader Martin Garrick of Solana Beach called the idea "dead on arrival."
More restrained, but equally unenthusiastic, Senate minority leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) said, "I don't think there's much support for it in my caucus."
Republicans say their ability to block budgets is central to holding down taxes.
"When the problem we have in Sacramento is spending, I don't think that the people would ever approve something on the budget that makes it easier to overspend," Hollingsworth said.
The majority-vote measure is among a set of changes proposed by California Forward, a coalition led by former legislators and business groups.
Separately, public employee unions are gathering signatures to put a measure on the ballot that would allow budgets to pass with a simple majority vote. In the past, voters have rejected such proposals.
California Forward's package includes a "pay as you go" bid that would force lawmakers to show how they would pay for proposals that cost at least $25 million a year.
The package also would require legislators to forfeit pay if a budget isn't passed by June 25. New fiscal years begin July 1.
Tax increases would still require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Democratic leaders say their purpose is to take a stand against the constant pressure to cut social programs.
"At some point, you know, enough is enough," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). "We're not going to hurt public education and healthcare any more than is absolutely essential."
Some elements of the package could win Republican support, Garrick said, including one to limit the number of bills each legislator can offer and a commitment to spend more time overseeing state agencies.