Bloviating rather than budgeting

SEPT. 1, 2010


Speeches, speeches and more speeches, took precedence over cries for “jobs, jobs, jobs,” at the Capitol Tuesday. Posturing, arguing, grandstanding, partisanship and passion were on tap in the Assembly and Senate as legislators debated budget bills, leading many to comment that the impassioned speeches should have taken place months ago.

Dramatic fundamental differences were evident during the debate over budget proposals, with the philosophical debate between continuing government expansion, and the need to cut government spending and taxes.

What also became evident between the parties was a differing opinion over the definition of middle class jobs. Democrats named public employees and police, fire fighters and teachers, as the holders of middle class jobs, and Republicans referenced private sector jobs, and specifically, the loss of manufacturing jobs in the state.

Senate Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, opened the Senate debate, and said that the Republican budget proposal was “reflective of the reality in today’s economy.” Hollingsworth explained that after $12.5 billion in tax increases last year, the Republican budget was designed to force the state to live within its means, now reduced to $84 billion. “What family isn’t making due with less?” asked Hollingsworth. “Yes, it’s a tough budget. Yes, it’s tough spending less, but it’s all we have.”

Hollingsworth said that the state was still going to be spending $48.5 billion on education, and needed to cut $3.5 billion out of Cal WORKS, and state paid child care.

Critical of the inaction by legislators on the budget, Hollingsworth said that if legislators had taken up the budget last February, the state would be $3 billion less in debt.  “The Republican budget brings spending in line with reality.”

Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, classified the budget debates as long overdue and about choices. “Governing is about choices,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg gave acclaim to former Gov. Pat Brown, for the “great building” done in the state during his two terms as governor. “Our university system, and the Kindergarten through 12th grade system was once the pride of the country — our state highway system, water infrastructure …  we have been investing in California,” said Steinberg.

Steinberg said the choice was tax credits to corporations or to cut $2.1 billion from public K-12 education. “Do we engage in intelligent tax reform, of which the governor’s proposal contains nothing?”

Critical of the Cal WORKS and child care cuts, Steinberg said the debate was to differentiate the myth from the facts, and do it in detail.

And so it continued for hours — Republicans on a cut-government-and-taxes side of the argument, with Democrats appearing to promise to keep government static and save government jobs.

According to newly elected Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, “Republicans are talking of trying to grow manufacturing jobs, which have been disappearing from the state, leaving California with $5 billion less in revenue every year.”

“Choosing to raise taxes is the choice Republicans are facing,” said Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. “Families are reducing their costs, but the pro tem said we need to invest to make California great — that means a tax increase. The Democrat budget has that. Ours lives within our means,” said Huff.

“Why are we struggling to make these tax increases – or continue to drive business elsewhere through regulations?” asked Huff. “Pat Brown built infrastructure but didn’t have CEQA (California Environmental and Quality Act), and other regulations to deal with. When they wanted to build a highway system or aqueduct, they just built it,” Huff said.

“We have incentivized businesses to go to Texas, or other states,” said Huff.

Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, directed comments to the Democrats, and said, “Your version of tax reform, on top of a $12 billion tax increase, is the largest of its kind. The Legislative Analyst’s Office said it is a tax increase for families making $20,000 to $200,000.”

“Average vehicle license fees will increase per family, and the oil severance tax is already the nations highest gas tax at the pump – at .64 cents a gallon, is that really the tax reform we need?” Aanestad asked.

“The point is yes we need tax reform, but to say ‘our budget is tax reform’ (referring to the Democrats,) , we don’t need or want the kind of tax reform you are proposing. The Republican budget is real reform – it does live within our means without a tax increase,” said Aanestad.

“Somebody’s got to show me money for God’s sake,” said San Bernardino Republican Sen. Bob Dutton.” Your budget’s going to require almost another $5 billion in additional tax increases. … Does anybody really think that you’re going to restore the economy by increasing taxes?”

Democrats all argued on behalf of Steinberg’s message. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, asked, “Who is Grover Norquist and why is he having his way with California?” referring the President of Americans For Taxpayer Reform. Leno criticized Republican reforms as “dismantling all that made us great.”

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord said, “The myth is to blame the workforce for some of the problem. Public employees are exemplars of achievement, as well as people who don’t do such a great job.” DeSaulnier said that during the last two years, legislators have eliminated 10,000 employees from the state payroll.

Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montbello, said, “My Republican colleagues talk about job killer this and job killer that. But a study done by U.C. Berkeley said the governor’s budget would lose 330,000 jobs – many of those private sector jobs,” said Calderon. “The Democrat budget is intelligent – you better believe so. It would do far less harm, sparing 250,000 jobs and 18 billion in lost economic input. Cutting is not the answer.”

In the Assembly, Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, asked for support for the democrat “California jobs budget,” and said, “Our plan saves jobs.”

But the speaker’s tone noticeably changed as he directed comments to Assembly Republicans. “We’ve listened to your concerns. We’re not imposing broad based taxes – we know you’ll only reject them.”

“No Republican can say with any honesty that we haven’t met you halfway. You can’t continue to insist ‘no’ on the budget. This reflects our values and your principles,” said the Los Angeles Democrat. “Cooperation starts today.”

62 days late on a budget, both houses of the Legislature failed to pass either budget bill  during today’s “drill.”

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