The Big 5 Is Dead. Meet the Big 6

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The Big 5 died Tuesday, murdered by a statewide elected official with a weapon handed him by the voters.

Police have yet to make any arrests.

The Big 5 referred to meetings of the five major players in the Capitol who often met to make budget deals and negotiate other major legislation.

They were the governor, the Assembly Speaker, the Senate president pro tem and the minority party leaders in the Assembly and Senate.

Big 5 meetings were controversial -- they occurred behind closed doors and thus shut out the press and other elected leaders -- but they were part of the process, in many years, of negotiating a budget.

But Big 5 meetings are pointless now.

Controller John Chiang, by withholding the pay of legislators after he judged the ballot they passed last week was unbalanced, made clear that the Big 5 isn't big enough.

From this point forward, we'll need a Big 6. The controller, with his action, just bought himself a seat at the big boys table.

How's that?

No legislative leader in his right mind would negotiate a budget without getting sign-off in advance from the controller. Because without the controller's approval, lawmakers don't get paid.

So there's no point in negotiating details without the controller present. Whatever you think of Chiang's decison, he just made his office far more powerful, which is what successful politicians do.

Of course, the controller's new power brings a new obstacle to the nearly impossible task of reaching budget agreements. Which will require lots more Big 6 meetings.

This is good for this controller and future controllers, who will have a high profile.

It also means that ambitious young politicians in California will be more likely to run for this job than other down-ticket statewide offices, like treasurer or secretary of state or lieutenant governor.

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