Assembly Dems play politics with sequestration bill

ScissorsMarch 1, 2013

By Katy Grimes

SACRAMENTO — Yesterday in the California Assembly the Democratic majority played fast and loose with a bipartisan bill aimed at urging President Barack Obama and Congress to avert the federal sequestration cuts.

SJR 3, by state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley, was passed unanimously by the California Senate on Monday. But in the Assembly, SJR 3 was no longer on the table, and a more partisan version was put in its place.

I asked Knight what happened. “It was a purely political move,” he said. “We even had Democrat support,” for his Senate bill.

Knight explained he was contacted late Wednesday by Assembly leaders and told he could author a severely amended version of his bill, in the form of AJR 14, or kiss it goodbye. Knight said while there were similarities, the Assembly version contained many inaccuracies and incorrect information, as well as a tax-increase component lacking in the version passed by the Senate.

“I made sure my bill was bipartisan, and we know that taxes make it a very partisan bill,” Knight said.

The ramming through of AJR 14 by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, circumvented the legal bill process. It was introduced less than 24 hours ago when Knight refused to accept the text of AJR 14 as amendments to his SJR 3.

Skipping the bill process

Knight’s bill, SJR 3, was already vetted, and had been heard publicly in committee hearings. But AJR 14, the replacement bill, had not been vetted or heard in any committee.

“Forcing me to decide between agreeing to inflammatory language or killing my original measure is an assault to my ethics and character,” Knight said.

Knight wasn’t alone. Many Republicans were incensed by the political hijinks. “God help us,” Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said. “I really thought this wasn’t going to start until June. It’s the end of February.”

“Stay off this bill,” Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino, urged Republicans. “No one had a chance to even read this bill.” AJR 14 was delivered to Assembly members this morning, after being printed overnight.

Freshman Assemblyman Scott Will, R-Valencia, urged all of the Assembly freshman class to withhold a vote on the bill to send a message to Assembly leadership that the rules need to be followed.

Unlike Knight’s SJR 3, the Assembly resolution suggests that raising taxes is a necessary prerequisite for avoiding sequester cuts. That line is being advanced “even though taxes already were raised by $620 billion earlier this year,” Knight said.

But comparing SJR 3 and AJR 14 side by side, the discrepancies and differences become obvious. Knight said that, while SJR 3 sought to unite legislators of both parties in a careful and thoughtful manner, AJR 14 was intentionally written to be divisive and prevent bipartisan dialogue on an issue important to California.

Knight said some of the information presented as “fact” in AJR 14 was highly suspect, and he rhetorically asked where Assembly Democrats got their information.

The Senate Rules Committee analysis reported:

* “The impact of a $1.2 trillion across-the-board, forced federal spending cuts proposed under sequestration will have serious and deleterious effects on our local, regional, state, and national economies, and jeopardize hundreds of thousands of high-wage, high-skill aerospace and other defense-related jobs, nondefense jobs, and critical social service programs in education, housing, health care, and other human service programs throughout the nation.

* “The sequestration spending cuts to over 1,000 government programs would shrink defense and nondefense discretionary spending and be devastating to the California and national economies.

* “Due to our unique combination of geography, cutting edge technological industries, and manufacturing capabilities, California is second in the United States for federal defense spending and provides vital services to our brave men and women serving in uniform around the world, and a cut to the defense budget would dramatically reduce the provision of those services and risk the safety of our troops.

* “Over 2.14 million jobs are projected to be lost in the United States, including 225,464 jobs lost in California, if the sequestration cuts are triggered.

* “An estimated $215 billion reduction in the nation’s gross domestic product, including an almost $23 billion reduction in California’s gross state product are projected, if the sequestration cuts are triggered.

* “A long-term, bipartisan compromise that averts sequestration will protect the California and national economies and provide a balanced and thoughtful budget solution.”

Threats of cuts vary

According to the White House, California-specific cuts will include:

* $87.6 million in funding for primary and secondary education.

* $12.4 million in environmental funding.

* $399.4 million reduction in gross pay through furlough of 64,000 civilian Department of Defense employees.

* $1.6 million in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement.

* $3.3 million in funding for job search assistance, referral and placement.

* $2.6 million in public health funding.

* $5.4 million in funds that provide meals for seniors.

The sequester would severely impact California’s 29 military installations, which are home to 117,806 active military personnel, 57,792 Reserve and National Guard personnel and 61,365 civilian personnel. Total: 236,963.

“I stand by my decision to ask Congress to go back to the drawing board and to come up with another solution to avoid devastating cuts caused by sequestration,” Knight said. “My version was supported on the [state] Senate Floor by Senators on both sides of the aisle who often disagree. Unfortunately a petty decision was made to guarantee that my version would not move forward.”

2 comments

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  1. Steve L.
    Steve L. 1 March, 2013, 16:06

    “The impact of a $1.2 trillion across-the-board, forced federal spending cuts proposed under sequestration will have serious and deleterious effects on our local, regional, state, and national economies, and jeopardize hundreds of thousands of high-wage, high-skill aerospace and other defense-related jobs, nondefense jobs, and critical social service programs in education, housing, health care, and other human service programs throughout the nation”
    What? The cuts mean they get the same funding as last year. The only cut s are to the INCREASEs they were going to get. Time we see this fake cuts for what they are.
    Just think how much they would scream if they were facing real cuts (like they should be facing).

    Reply this comment
  2. LInda
    LInda 1 March, 2013, 16:52

    So the not cuts are cuts and reductions cause panic. When will the media start to do thier jobs and report the facts. A cut in an increase is just that. If you have $100 a for each week and think you will have $150 for the next week then find out you only will get $130 next week, it is still and increase not a cut ! It is just a smaller increase.

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