California budget battle will be a long one, says UC Riverside professor

July 10, 2003

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- (www.ucr.edu) -- Shaun Bowler, a UC Riverside political science professor, is predicting that California citizens are in for a very long ride before the budget is signed in Sacramento, with a divisive recall battle that will only make the road bumpier.

"Republicans have absolutely no incentive to compromise," he said, because they can portray the budget mess as a direct result of Davis' incompetence." He said he wouldn't be surprised if there is still no budget by September. There are several reasons that complicate the budget stalemate.

First, it is difficult to get two thirds of the legislature to agree on one plan. California is one of only three states in the union that require a budget vote pass by a supermajority. Rhode Island and Arkansas are the others. Most states require a simple majority vote.

Second, California politics tends toward the extreme views. Moderates tend to get shut out of the process early on. Bowler said that both sides tend to develop into a "corps of the spiteful." Richard Riordan is an example, he said. "He was out of the picture rather quickly and the Republican who carried the banner was the much more conservative Bill Simon."

Third, while some states have legislatures that have a fairly high level of bipartisan cooperation, California has become deeply divided along party lines. "Some people have the Democrats handing out social programs as the "mommy party" and the Republicans setting stern limits as the "daddy party."

"In California, what we've got is divorced mom and divorced dad," Bowler said. "They are spiteful to each other and always handing out gifts to buy the loyalty of the children who take their side.

Recalls, he said, are usually a good sign, because it means democracy is working. "It's a means of sending a message to leaders who are not doing a good job." The fact that citizens of California actually lined up and waited to sign the recall petition at the local Sam's Club means the Republicans have tapped into a very strong emotion.

Bowler contends that successful recall campaigns are really quite rare, because it requires a cause that citizens can grab hold of. "Right now the budget is a mess and the Republicans are doing a really good job of blaming the Democrats," Bowler said.

But the ongoing battle of political wills may not do anyone any good in the long run, Bowler said. "It's like throwing stones in a glass house," he said. "When the voters are fed up with both parties it will be a plague on both."

The co-author of Demanding Choices: Opinions and Voting in Direct Democracy, Bowler has studied elections all over the world. He came to UC Riverside in 1989.
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University of California - Riverside

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