Ian Milhiser takes note of an interesting constitutional provision out of California that was enacted last fall. It’s a rule that says if the state legislature doesn’t manage to pass a budget on time, legislators will see their pay docked. It seems like an idea with some promise at the federal level:
Earlier this year, the federal government came within inches of an economically catastrophic shutdown because right-wing lawmakers refused to fund the government unless they could exact some concessions from President Obama. This summer, the GOP could blow up the entire U.S. economy by forcing us to default on our debt unless Obama signs economically crippling spending cuts into law. Meanwhile, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution or anywhere else in federal law that penalizes lawmakers who fail to complete must-do tasks like funding the government or raising the debt ceiling.
California’s pay-docking provision is a good idea, but it probably doesn’t go far enough. Many modern constitutions are designed to make it next to impossible for a government to cripple itself via inaction. Canada, for example, recently had to dissolve its entire government and hold a new election because it’s previous legislature failed to pass a budget.