California budget deal a disgrace

25 July 2009 |permalink | email article

Odd as it may seem, considering that they make up just 37% of the legislature, Republicans look like winners in the state spending plan which includes no new taxes and deep cuts in health and welfare programs that actor-turned failed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has sought since he won a 2003 recall reelection.

Bruce Cain, the political-science professor at the University of California at Berkeley. summarized it succinctly in The Wall Street Journal: “They have realized Reagan’s vision of a smaller state and local government. They have forced [Democrats] to make very deep cuts in services, to schools and to state salaries and state benefits.”

The front-page photo in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times, with Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass beaming with the governor as they announced a budget agreement, made the two Democrats look foolish.

Calbuzz nailed it: “While Steinberg and Bass get all puffed up about how “responsible” and statesmanlike they were in reaching a deal, the plain fact is that they gave away the store in terms of Democratic priorities and values.”

Whether this stunning turn of events represents a shift of power toward the Republicans remains to be seen. Cain said that if Californians find themselves with too few state services that would give ammunition to groups who want to lower the vote threshold for the budget. Currently, a two-thirds vote is necessary. With a simple majority requirement, Republican influence could be minimized.

But with little more than killing the controversial proposal for the first new oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast in four decades and borrowing of tax revenue that belongs to state governments to brag about Steinberg and Bass – facing another budget crisis in six months – must get tough, energize their majorities or be ousted.

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