Cal Budget 2011, pt 1: Our big decision – what kind of state will we be? (with poll!)

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Extremist Irvine Assemblyman Don Wagner and like-minded knuckle-draggers
aim to deny you the choice between continued revenue and draconian cuts.

Where we stand now

Our new Governor Jerry Brown won in a landslide, promising to balance California’s budget with a stern but fair combination of CUTS and added REVENUE. True to his promise, he has proposed a budget that addresses a $25 billion shortfall with $12.5 billion in painful cuts to services, and the most reasonable possible plan to add $12.5 in revenue.

Unfortunately all the new revenue sources we progressives would prefer (an oil-extraction fee like all other oil-producing states have; closing of Schwarzenegger’s 2009 corporate tax loopholes; a modest hike on millionaires and billionaires) are unattainable without a 2/3 vote, i.e., the co-operation of at least four Sacramento Republicans, nearly all of whom have signed a no-tax pledge and live in absurd terror of Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, and John & Ken.

The easiest way to achieve that $12.5 billion in revenue is to just EXTEND the current taxes and fees that were slightly raised under Schwarzenegger two years ago – to just extend that five more years (until the economy hopefully picks up.)  Because that could be done by a popular vote, THIS JUNE, of you and me. It appears, though, that just even PUTTING THAT QUESTION onto June’s ballot may ALSO require the 2/3 vote with the four Republicans.  And the Norquist / John & Ken crowd is treating a vote like that – a vote allowing you and me to decide on our own taxes – as a vote for taxes.

And if this measure doesn’t get onto the ballot, and pass democratically, we will be forced to suffer a draconian $25 BILLION IN CUTS – the “all-cuts budget.”  Worse than I think most of us want to see.

What an “all-cuts” budget would look like

The $12.5 billion in cuts currently proposed in Governor Brown’s budget are already quite grim, as we’ve already cut to the bone everything unnecessary (except redevelopment agencies) in previous budgets.  Now, he’s gone after redevelopment agencies (to general approval on both left and right) and also slashed more from welfare, took $500 million each from the budgets of the University of California and California State University, ended the Adult Day Health Care program for the elderly, and capped the number of Medi-Cal visits for the poor (most of these cuts by the way being “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”)  Any more cuts will be actual bone surgery.

If we are forced into a $25 billion all-cuts budget, we go beyond “grim” into a WORLD OF SHIT.  Last month the non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office gave us a slight idea of what THAT would entail: “larger elementary school class sizes, increased tuition for college and university students and a deep shakeup for local law enforcement, courts and prisons. ”  More specifically, it would include all or most of the following Dickensian slashes. (Actually a few of these don’t look so bad to me, but those are ones that only save a few mill; the big ones are devastating.) From the SacBee:

Eliminate K-3 class size reduction ($1.275 billion)
— Require that kindergarteners be 5 years old at enrollment in 2011-12 ($700 million)
— Impose a 90-unit cap on each community college student’s taxpayer-subsidized credits ($250 million)
Increase community college fees from $26/unit to $66/unit ($170 million)
— Eliminate state subsidy for intercollegiate athletics ($55 million)
Increase tuition another 7 percent for UC and 10 percent for CSU ($270 million)
Reduce CSU enrollment by 5 percent ($124 million)
— Reduce personnel costs by 10 percent at UC and 5 percent at CSU ($408 million)
Reduce state-paid In-Home Health Services provider salary to minimum wage ($300 million)
— Eliminate food and cash aid for non-citizens whom courts have determined can receive benefits ($190 million)
— Stricter income eligibility for welfare-to-work recipients ($180 million)
— Require second and third “strikes” to be serious or violent in “Three Strikes” sentencing ($50 million) – [hey that’s not bad]
— Eliminate funding for public safety grant programs ($506 million)
— Eliminate automated speed-enforcement cameras ($150 million) – [hey that’s not bad!]
— Two furloughs a month for court employees ($130 million)
Reduce state employee pay an additional 9.24 percent, equal to two furlough days ($700 million)
— Reduce state contribution to employee health care by 30 percent ($330 million)
— End state general fund support for Small Business Loan Guarantee Program ($24 million)
— Eliminate Department of Fair Employment and Housing and state commission ($17.2 million)
— Enact another accounting swap that eliminates sales tax on diesel and increases weight fees, reducing funds for local transit and intercity rail ($400 million)
— Allow oil drilling at Tranquillon Ridge ($100 million) [ – and no extraction fee?  Go jump in a lake!]
Reduce wildland firefighting costs by imposing a new fee on residential property owners in areas protected by the state, clarifying that the state is not fiscally responsible for loss of life and property and shrinking territory for which state is responsible ($300 million)

The taxes we’re talking about extending five more years

So what are we talking about, and hopefully voting on (if a few Republicans allow us to) this June?  What are these taxes we’re considering extending five more years, to avoid the above-described all-cuts budget?

Do you remember those hellish budget negotiations of 2009, that ended up with Schwarzenegger and the legislature, including a few crossover Republicans, agreeing on what hysterical anti-tax crusaders still call the “largest tax hike in the history of the universe,” but which most of us actual citizens and taxpayers barely even noticed in our lives?  That’s what we’re talking about.

It consisted and consists of three parts, which you’ve already been paying since ’09:  1% sales taxes, a 5% surcharge on your state income tax, and half a percent on the vehicle license fee (which took it from 0.65% to 1.15%.)  That’s what we’re talking about.  For five more years, and the proceeds will go to local governments and schools.

I say that’s worth it to avoid the rash of cuts we just looked at, and I’ll be voting YES. What do you say?  (You can practice thinking about that question by voting in the poll below.)

Over the next few days we’ll be looking at:

  • The Republican anti-democracy caucus, and the few Republican Grownups who may do the right thing;
  • The question of should Republican politicians really be afraid of defeated OC-GOP vice chair JON FLEISCHMAN, Grover Norquist, and John & Ken??? (especially in the new age of the Open Primary!)
  • And we’ll look at and dismantle every single argument of the Anti-Democracy Caucus’ foremost spokesman, who is – LOL – Jon Fleischman!


PAPER TIGER.
[Note that I am being mature and not using
Art’s pig-nosed photshop. Hard to tell, huh?]

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About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.