The ballot measure would likely appear in 2012, Gatto said, unless the next governor calls for a special statewide election in 2011 to gain voter approval of other fiscal reforms.
Gatto noted this year's $19.1-billion deficit comes only four years after the state was taking in huge surpluses. The idea of putting away money in good times for use in bad times is essential in a state with a volatile, boom-and-bust economy, he said.
"Every family in California gets this common-sense concept, but for whatever reason Sacramento hasn't grasped it for a long time," Gatto said. "It's very important for the state to learn its lessons from the current budget malaise."
This year's budget process is being viewed as a disaster, as lawmakers and the governor missed their deadline by 100 days and used a combination of cuts, borrowing and accounting tricks to close the $19.1-billion budget gap.
"It was definitely a complex process in a very tough year," Gatto said.
But he said it was important to restore funding to the state university systems and preserve other programs that protect jobs.
As in recent years, nearly all of the budget work was done behind closed doors by the so-called Big 5 — the governor and Democratic and Republican party leaders in both houses — before details were revealed to the members of both houses.
"The budget process is clearly broken," Gatto said. But, "there are always some components of the negotiations that make it difficult or impossible to do with 120 people in the room."
Gatto's rival on the Nov. 2 ballot, Republican Sunder Ramani, hammered the budget deal in an Oct. 13 statement.