Raising Revenue, Democrat Party Style

Katy Grimes: Restructuring, local control, and raising revenue were all the rage at a press conference held today at the state capitol. Held by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego, “restructuring,” “raising revenue” and “local control” were terms used frequently used by the California Democrats as code words for we are going to dump the budget deficit on the counties, and let them raise taxes.

In avian terms, this is called crapping in your own nest.

However, Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, appeared to disagree with avian rules, and reiterated his message by offering the example that his constituents are also Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s constituents, and stressed that local concerns are also state concerns.

That Steinberg and Ducheny were critical of Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget revise was no surprise. “The Governor’s May revise is unacceptable, and it has long-term problems,” said Steinberg. Ducheny said that she shares Steinberg’s opinion of the Governor’s budget proposal.

“Voters want to pay for services,” said Steinberg, referring to the social programs the Governor proposed to cut in the May budget revise.

One benefit of restructuring according to Steinberg is that it “eases the state’s revenue shortfall and enables smaller increases in state taxes and fewer devastating cuts in programs that serve the state’s most vulnerable populations.” Smaller increases in state taxes… would those be the kind coming from counties?

Using soft words combined together in caring phrases about children, the mentally ill, the elderly and schools, Steinberg insisted that while he’s ensconced at the state capitol, he will “save the mentally ill,” but the counties will be running the programs.

Is this just a mole game with the state budget, or will “restructuring” work? Had the written budget solution plan not used the word “shift” before every listed state service, perhaps real budgeting might have occurred.

Instead, Steinberg’s plan calls for:

  • Shifting state juvenile parole services to counties;
  • Shifting low-level criminal offenders to counties;
  • Shifting drug Medi-Cal programs to counties;
  • Shifting offender treatment programs to counties;
  • Shifting drug court to counties;
  • Shifting CalWORKS child care to counties, while increasing the county share of CalWORKS grants, services and administration.

When a program shift is not enough, “realigning” services is. While the Adult Protective Services and aging services are being shifted to counties, two of the aging programs will be “realigned” to counties as well.  The aging department is slated to be “eliminated” however, it appears as if the programs are all being shifted or realigned to the county, or being taken over by the Health and Human Services agency.

And while the plan includes eliminating the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, the plan is to transfer “remaining functions” to the health care services department and add one oversight position to the agency. This seems to make the elimination a moot point. Eliminating a department on the state level, and increasing it on the county level is a mole game.

The real issue is that Steinberg is proposing to shift a great deal of the state’s financial burden to the counties, and then plans to pass legislation that will allow the counties to raise taxes without a two-thirds vote. He called it “raising revenue,” but the end goal is the same. Raising revenue is Democrat-speak for tax increases in the public sector. In the private sector, to raise revenue is defined as selling something of value.

California Forward, the self-proclaimed bi-partisan group that claimed it’s mission was “to improve the quality of life for all Californians by creating more responsive, representative and cost-effective government,” was exposed as being a nice sounding progressive group. The real goal was to pass the state budget without the required two-thirds vote, thereby allowing the party in control to dictate the budget they want.

With this latest scheme, Democrats under Steinberg’s tutelage, instead found a back door approach to get counties to do their tax increasing for them.

To pay for the plan, Steinberg, Ducheny and the Senate Democrats want to “give counties additional revenues to pay for the restructured services” by implementing the following:

  • Make a permanent oil severance tax;
  • Transfer Vehicle Licensing fees from the DMV to counties;
  • Make permanent the existing VLF fees;
  • Dedicate county savings from the anticipated federal healthcare reforms to services;
  • Cancel corporate tax breaks.

Raise vehicle taxes, oil taxes, and the tax on government health care while cutting corporate incentives is how state Democrats propose to raise revenues — also known as killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Present were representatives from the California State Association of Counties.

Steinberg did not offer an actual savings amount with his restructuring plan. However, this latest scheme doesn’t appear to be about savings to the state; instead, Democrats under Steinberg’s tutelage, seem to have found a back door approach to get counties to do their tax increases for them.

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