Tequila shots for an ‘honest budget’

June 18, 2012

By Katy Grimes

As Legislative leaders worked so diligently to pass the sham budget last week, their motive was obvious—they wanted to be paid. Even when they miserably fail at the only aspect of the job they are actually responsible for, they think they should be remunerated.

When voters passed Proposition 25 in 2010, which now allowed the California Legislature to pass a simple majority vote budget instead of the two-thirds majority vote previously required, it was like offering a drunk a chilled martini.

But voters didn’t just give the drunk the entire gin bottle. The most enticing requirement in Prop. 25 stated that legislators would lose their pay if they failed to pass the budget by the constitutional deadline of June 15. This was the olive and whisper of vermouth in the martini.

Elected officials have spent many years coming up with creative ways to trick voters and taxpayers into allowing politicians to now vote on their own raises, benefits and pensions. And with passage of Prop. 25, they now make budget votes based on continuing their pay, and not on the need of the state.

I’ll have a single-malt Scotch, please.

Put his drink on my tab

With blatant disregard for the people of the state of California, the Legislature voted last week to pass an incomplete budget, just because they wanted to continue to be paid. Claims from Senate and Assembly leaders that it was an honest, balanced budget were repeated verbatim over the course of the week in budget committee hearings and in debates in both houses, together with the many other obvious budget talking points.

Can you imagine any other employer paying an employee for half-assed, incomplete work? Not in the real world of honest, balanced budgets and merit-based compensation.

Attempts by Republicans to be included in the process were ignored, as Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles, met privately with select staff and created a budget favoring Democratic unions and pet special interests. All talks with Gov. Jerry Brown were also behind closed doors.

There are many media reports of Republicans having hurt feelings about being left out of the budget talks this year. But what is omitted from most stories is that rank-and-file Democrat legislators were also left out.

Kept out of all budget negotiations this year, Republicans didn’t have to go through the usual budget time insanity, maybe feeling even a sense of relief. But it’s the Democrats who are more upset about being left behind by their own leaders, causing many to speculate that the majority party is far more divided than they want the public to know–especially after being denigrated by Steinberg and Perez.

Drinking Games

If I had taken a shot of Tequilla every time Steinberg, Perez, Budget Committee Chairmen Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, said that this budget was “honest, balanced” and was an “open and transparent process,” it would have been a weekend bender, and I’d have a whopper of a hangover.

Closer to the truth about the 2012-13 budget was the floor speech by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia. “This budget takes a sledgehammer to our economy, crushing the hopes and dreams of almost every Californian who works hard and plays by the rules,” Donnelly said, before members voted on the budget bill, AB 1464 by Blumenfield. “It steals from the responsible to fund the irresponsible.”

Democrats clearly didn’t appreciate Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, exposing that the budget bill was a sham, as she questioned Blumenfield on the second of two budget bills.  “Let me get this right,” Grove said, directing her question to Blumenfield, the author of AB 1464 and a second budget bill, AB 1495. ”We just passed the budget bill, and now we are being asked to pass the budget bill junior because the first budget bill is already out of balance?”

Speaker Perez appeared out of nowhere and pounded on the podium challenging Grove on arcane points of order, to no avail. The cat was already out of the bag, and the budget sham exposed.

Capitol fiscal experts report that despite claims that this budget is balanced, California is starting off the new budget year with $63 billion debt, including the record deficit.

$63 billion debt

The $63 billions of debt is based on deferrals, fund shifts, offsets and loans, as well as the budget deficit itself. I am told that Brown and Democrats greatly understate the state’s debt and work hard at hiding much of the debt behind offsets, fund shifts and deferrals, also known as accounting tricks and gimmicks.

“Repressive and dictatorial powers brought us this budget,” Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said. “This is business as usual.”

Add these massive obligations, as well as unrealistic revenue expectations, and the Legislature’s failure to make cuts while increasing education spending, and California is in a state of economic emergency.

Brown understated the deficit in the January 2012 budget by so much that, by the time the May revise came out, it had grown by nearly 50 percent.

The 2012-13 budget shows that, by 2015-16, general fund spending is expected to grow 28.8 percent.

That’s a tremendous amount of spending.

“California Democrats are acting like a Government mob robbing all of us to pay for college tuition grants for illegals, so-called ‘green’ jobs projects like High-Speed Rail and more pay, benefits and pension for their government union buddies,” Donnelly said. “This budget does nothing to get California back on the path to economic growth and will only result in more businesses, more jobs, and more tax revenues fleeing the state for friendlier climates.”

“With all the smoke and mirrors in this budget,” Donnelly continued, “the Governor and his goons could open a show in Vegas. We’d be more likely to get the money they’re looking for that way.”

And the drinks would be cheaper.

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