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Editorial: A California Budget at Last, with a Possible Bonus: Open Primaries

by Indy, published

From the Mercury News:

In the end, Democrats blinked — as much for lack of sleep as the stark realization that, by further stalling on the state budget, California would blow up before their weary eyes.

The agreement they reached with Republican holdout Sen. Abel Maldonado before dawn Thursday was probably as good as anyone could hope, given the unyielding requirement for passage by a two-thirds majority. The budget for the next 17 months will be balanced by spreading the hardship of reduced services and higher taxes fairly evenly, with notable exceptions, starting with the evisceration of public transit funding. There will be a few budget reforms, including more public-private building projects. And at Maldonado's insistence, there's an unexpected opportunity for true political reform: Californians will decide in June 2010 whether to switch to an open system of primary elections that will allow voters to choose whatever candidates they want, regardless of party affiliation. The two top vote getters would face a runoff.

Political parties hate open primaries, for they will loosen their grip on the Legislature while producing more pragmatic and independent legislators. So they and their supporters — unions allied with Democrats, anti-tax groups behind Republicans — will campaign against the plan. The past four months of brinkmanship at the Capitol, with furloughs and a precipitous drop in California's credit rating, prove the case for reform.

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