Well, they are: this budget deal is mean, nasty, and stupid. The budget cuts $15B altogether to close a $26B shortfall. Of these $15B, $9B come from education, divided between K-12 ($6B) and Higher Ed ($3B). The rest of the shortfall is covered through a combination of shameless money grab from counties and municipalities and accounting tricks. The budget deal allows resumption of oil drilling off the Santa Barbara Coast — which will bring in a measly $100M — but does not raise any other extra revenue.
It's true that some programs for the poor and the sick were completely eliminated, although they have heavily cut. Maybe that's why Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-LA) is smiling. But there is nothing to smile about.
The budget deal having been approved by the Senate in an all-night session, it is currently being debated in the Assembly where apparently one of the most contentious items is early release of prisoners from the State system (again, you would not want to step on the prison guards union's toes).
The Republicans in the Legislature have had their way in not raising any new revenue. Except of course when it comes to State and University Employees: what are salary cuts and furloughs if not a tax hike targeted at a very specific group, violating the spirit if not the letter of the Equal Protection Clause?
Unfortunately there is not much that can be done right now to bring back some sanity to the California political process. Local governments, unions and educators are beginning to build opposition to this cruel budget deal, but the problems are more far-reaching.
Well, then, what to do now? Here is a first list:
- Fix the electoral process with redistricting reform as enacted through Prop. 11 and move towards open primaries.
- Repeal Prop. 13 at least for commercial properties and the 2/3 majority requirement.
- Approve AB 565, if necessary by putting it on the ballot for voters to approve directly. This would bring California in line with Texas (!!) in using an oil severance tax to fund higher Education.
Finally, hats-off to Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who was the only one to speak against the budget cuts in education at the UC Regents' meeting earlier this month. Unfortunately, it appears that Garamendi is running for Congress in California's 10th district. That's too bad: he's needed right here in California.