13 January 2010

The Governor's parting salvo

It's been a week since the Governor 's State of the State address last Wednesday, and a few days since he made public his budget proposal on Friday, and it's becoming a little clearer what Schwarzenegger is (or is not) trying to accomplish.

Of course, from our point of view, the most remarkable piece of the State of the State address was the proposed constitutional amendment to gradually shift funding priorities from prisons to higher education in a process that is to run through 2014. However, over the last few days (if we can borrow a page from Pres. Yudof's book) the shine has come off the Governor proposal.

It is, first of all,  another piece of constitutionally mandated budgeting, like we did not have enough of that already. The flip side of a renewed emphasis on education is the big push in prison privatizations (rather than, say, reviewing California's sentencing laws or releasing non-violent first offenders). But the most remarkable aspect of the proposal, like the twin proposal to adopt the Parsky commission tax reform, is that it has virtually no chance of passing. It would require approval by two-thirds of the Legislature followed by approval by the voters in a state-wide ballot.

That the Governor was not serious about shifting funding priorities became apparent just a few days later, in the January budget. Because if he had been, he could have started right there and then, without waiting for a constitutional amendment. Instead, the January budget restores a minimal amount to UC (about one third of UCOP's request) and CSU, but cuts K-14 education (including community colleges). The January budget also cuts $1.2B from the Dept. of Corrections, but mostly through reduced inmate health care (and transfer of inmates to County jails). Even if the cut in the Corrections budget were to pass muster with the Republicans in the Legislature,  inmate health care in California is overseen by the federal courts, who would also have to approve the change.

So it is clear that Governor's proposals are just a boutade, soemthing he came up with because he has no idea how to go about fixing the State's problems — and what's more, he never did. The Governor is all hat and no cattle and he has been running California in the last few years by coming up with an amateurish measure after the other.

Finally, we pause to note that our fearless leader Pres. Yudof was quick to praise the Governor for his bold proposal, and the Academic Senate (and a few Chancellors) equally quick to praise Yudof for bringing it about. Too bad the Governor's office remarked that the protests this past fall were "the tipping point," not any pleading by UC's leadership.

When one tries to take it all in, the irrationality and wishful thinking that permeate both Sacramento and Oakland, the conclusion seems inescapable: we are fucked.

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