Bad actors, lousy script, in CA budget ‘play’

June 13, 2012

By Katy Grimes

California’s budget process has become a charade–it’s like watching a really amateurish play, with bad actors who do not know their lines, haven’t read the script fully, but know that someone dies at the end.

It’s embarrassing to watch, makes you squirm, and makes you mad that you had to pay to see it.

Is anyone in charge?

The state budget deadline is Friday, but no one at the Capitol appears to know what is going on, leading many to believe that the entire process is an annual farce.

Tuesday’s budget hearings were just more of the same–the Assembly Budget Committee held another “informational” budget hearing, and the Senate budget hearing was another long, drawn out hearing hammering out budget details which should have been dealt with months ago.

Leadership from both houses of the Democratically-controlled Legislature announced plans Tuesday to vote on a budget even before the Friday deadline, whether or not  a deal with Gov. Jerry Brown has been struck.

But many members of the Assembly and Senate reported that they were not only not invited to participate in budget negotiations, they were kept in the dark about important trailer bill language until being handed the list at the hearings.

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Bob Blumenfield, D-Los Angeles, assured everyone that this would be another “balanced and on-time budget.” But taxpayers heard that same message last year from  Brown.

“It’s their money, their state budget,” Blumenfield said to committee members and the large audience watching the hearing.  “Voters will ultimately decide on cuts. Our role in the Assembly has been to give voters a choice.”

“This whole process is a mess”

“The Legislature has agreed to some tough cuts, but the budget before the committees today is not structurally balanced and puts us into a hole in succeeding years,” Brown said Tuesday in a statement. “Balancing the budget is critical to protecting education for the long term. We’re not there yet.”

Since January, Brown has overstated the state’s tax revenues, leaving lawmakers with the ugly truth now. And ugly it is… The Senate Budget Committee handed out an 84 page budget detail list of items to vote on, and the Assembly’s budget detail list was even longer, with 116 pages of excruciating budget detail still unresolved.

“This whole process is a mess,” said Sen. BIll Emmerson, R-Riverside. “No one seems to understand how you plan to work. Why are we voting on the budget plan today if it will change tomorrow?” Emmerson asked Committee Chairman, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

But there was no answer.

Emmerson reminded Leno and committee members that Republicans had requested 48 hours to review all budget bills. But that request was was met with a “hmmm,” by Leno, and Emmerson moved on.

The arrests

After the arrests of 10 rowdy, angry union home health workers outside of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Capitol office, protests calmed down a bit. But the Capitol was still plagued by the protesting union members, upset about Brown’s proposed cuts to social welfare and health programs.

The hearings were crawling with hundreds of the protesting union workers wearing matching SEIU t-shirts. And for the second day, the streets outside of the Capitol were lined with expensive chartered buses, which brought the union workers to the Capitol to put pressure on lawmakers.

And that’s how it’s done by the Democrats. The union members are chartered to Sacramento from all over the state, provided lunch vouchers, handed scripts, whipped into a frenzy, and set loose on the Capitol.

The choice

The governor’s budget plan includes the revenue from his tax increase ballot initiative which will be voted on in November. In fact, all of the Democratic budget plans factored in Brown’s tax increase revenue.

Brown’s ballot initiative would raise income taxes on California’s top earners, and raise sales taxes. If passed, this to the highest in the nation,  would make California taxpayers forking over highest amount of taxes of any state, and put California number-one in sales taxes.

However, if voters do not pass the tax increase, Brown has said he will cut $6 billion from their children’s schools instead. What a choice.

Without passage of his tax increase, automatic cuts will be triggered.

In the meantime however, Brown said he still needs to cut $1.2 billion from low- income health programs, $1.1 billion from welfare and in-home workers, and $500 million from courts and the Judicial Branch.

Brown recently explained that he will be cutting state workers’ weekly hours, which will cut overall costs by 5 percent.

The Charade

“I assure you the Legislature will pass not only an on- time budget Friday, but it will be balanced and it will be honest,” said Leno. “There will be no additional borrowing beyond what the governor has already proposed and there will be no gimmicks. It will be an honest, solid budget.”

But Democrats are proposing more spending than the governor, and say they are refusing to make the cuts to health and welfare.

It’s Act lV of this bad play. Most of us wish we could get up and leave early, except we paid for this, and will continue doing so long after the actors go home.

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