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[caption id="attachment_13326" align="alignright" width="109" caption="Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael)"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA - Calling the ongoing state budget debacle "the worst crisis in our history," California State Assemblyman Jared Huffman outlined a six-point reform package he believes could return the Golden State to fiscal responsibility.

"Even though we finally reached an agreement on a temporary budget after the July 1 deadline this year, the core problem of how our state will be able to keep pace with the revenues needed to fund existing and essential new programs has not been solved."

His comments were part of a presentation at the general membership meeting of the Sonoma County Alliance today at the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club attended by more than 200 local business, labor and education leaders and public officials.

"During the first half of 2009 we witnessed a 34 percent drop in state revenues and every day after July 1 that we went without a budget cost the state $25 million in interest charges - enough to wipe out savings derived from CalWorks budget cuts including the three-days-a-month furlough of state workers."

Assemblyman Huffman, a Democrat who serves on the Assembly Budget Committee as well as the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources, supports fiscal and election reform.  He suppoted creation of oil severance and additional tobacco taxes to help close the budget gap.

This morning, he outlined six steps he believes should be taken to help remedy the continuing budget controversy.

He said the requirement for a two-thirds majority to pass a state budget invites gridlock and should be changed .

He also supports returning more control over spending to local governments.

"It is my belief that we should realign more authority back to local governments. I think the two-thirds vote requirement should be replaced with a simple majority vote on fiscal matters," he said. "I have developed a ballot measure for a new state constitutional amendment to address this."

This proposed amendment, ACA 9, would give more control to voters to decide how to fund local services, including public schools, local police, firefighters, community libraries and parks by lowering the voting threshold for approval of local taxes from two thirds to a supermajority 55 percent.

He also advocates an end to term limits. "Having one third of our legislators going out the door, or already campaigning for their next office, doesn't work.  At that point they are focused on only finding short-term budget solutions and gimmicks."

Two of these gimmicks include in the current budget are not releasing state paychecks until one day after the end of the year saving $1 billion in the current year, and selling some of the State Workers Compensation Insurance Fund for about another $1 billion.

Assemblyman Huffman also wants to reform the initiative process by eliminating those bills that create new costs without having a funding source to pay for them.  "Debt service cost is now the third largest line item in the budget and growing larger, mostly due to unfunded legislative mandates."

He also believes that moving to a two-year budget cycle could relieve much of the pressure the state faces each year and give lawmakers time to reach agreement on compelling issues.

Looking farther down the road, Assemblyman Huffman thinks that a state constitutional convention may be in order.

"Some people have a lot of angst over this. They fear losing control. They reason that if the state constitution were to be rewritten it could completely overhaul the entire government process.  It's scary, since this could put issues like the continuance of Prop. 13 and other popular legislative provisions on the table."

Assemblyman Huffman said that one way to safeguard the selection process is by developing a preemptory challenge procedure for picking constitutional convention delegates.

"With more than 500 amendments to the current state constitution (the federal constitution has had only 30 amendments in over 200 years), it is time we considered taking a comprehensive look at our constitution."

Assemblyman Huffman represents the 6th California Assembly District comprising all of Marin and the southern portion of Sonoma County.