Progressives Struggling with the Props while Field Shows Californians Want Something for Nothing

I am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

As the California Democratic Party endorsements showed, progressives are struggling with the May 19 elections.  On one side, you see some pretty progressive elected officials, like Bass and Steinberg, and organizations, like the California Teachers Association. Yet, it is clear that none of these fronts are really unified.  Not all of the legislators are supporting the May 19 props. Asms. Sandre Swanson and Warren Furutani are opposing Prop 1A.  And the education community is not unified either:

“It’s not comfortable to be in the position of disagreeing with our state organization,” said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, which represents about 2,800 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians in the city’s public schools.

Still, Olson-Jones said, “We really cannot, in all good conscience, support any measure that would cap and cut vital social services, because they are needed by our students.”(OakTrib 4/29/09)

In fact, Bay Area Progressives seem to be a major problem for the Yes on 1A-F campaign.  The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, a large and active bunch, went no on the whole lot, and the San Francisco Young Democrats went No on A, C, D, and E. And yesterday, the SF Bay Guardian, the progressive newspaper of the Bay Area, went no on all 6 measures. They make similar points to the Calitics endorsements, specifically that the measures will “lock the state in a fiscal straitjacket.”

We’ve listened to both sides, researched the measures in depth, and concluded that the best choice for Californians is to reject Propositions 1A through 1F. The proposal may address (most of) this year’s budget woes and keep the state running for a while, but it will create a fiscal straightjacket on the order of Proposition 13 that will damage California and undermine any progressive policy hopes for many, many years into the future. If the voters accept this deal today, they’ll come to regret it. (SFBG 4/29/09)

The Guardian also acknowledged the growing progressive discontent with the measures. It was on full display at the CDP convention, and doesn’t look to be quieting down. The Prop 1A spending cap just makes the package a difficult pill to swallow, and the Props D & E cuts to vital services don’t  endear themselves to progressives either.

UPDATE: This Field Poll (PDF) on the fact that Californians don’t want more taxes but don’t want cuts is quite relevant to the discussion. Of twelve subject areas that Field asked about, Californians only support cuts to prisons (59%…oh, me too!) and state parks (51%).  Other spending programs are widely supported, with law enforcement cuts (23%) and education cuts (25%) being the least popular.

Somewhere along the line, Californians have come to believe that we can have our cake and eat it too. That we can have impossibly low taxes and yet still provide the services that our state needs.  Where, oh where, could they have heard that.  Oh, right, that’s pretty much the Bush Administration in a nutshell, and how Arnold came to power in 2003 with his “car tax” rhetoric. The negative effects of the constant tax-cutting message of people like Arnold and those on his right flank has come home to roost.  And we as Democrats have been shy about telling any other story.  The poll bears this out by reporting that about 70% of Californians support the 2/3 majority for taxation.

California is in an impossible situation, the voters expect everything, and expect to pay nothing for it. I’m beginning to think that Treasurer Lockyer wasn’t really that far off when he said that higher ed institutions might not open up next year.  That might not even be the worst of our problems if Californians don’t begin to conceptualize how government actually works.

15 thoughts on “Progressives Struggling with the Props while Field Shows Californians Want Something for Nothing”

  1. seems to be the choice we have to make…and let there be no doubt about it, when these props fail there will be some in the state who won't eat (both figuratively speaking and in fact.)  Because nothing has changed since this deal was struck.  The Just Say No Minority will insist on cuts only and they are fine with cutting all the stuff the recent Field Poll shows the majority is for and preventing the tax increases the majority favors. And according to the poll, we have a lot of work to do to get people to make the connection that the solutions they favor are blocked by the 1/3rd rule of the minority.

  2. But I suspect the average voter is just as unrealistic on that as on the other issues – they want to cut prison spending, but not cut length of draconian sentences or stop locking people up for petty crimes or any of that.  They just want to spend less money on people in prison.  

  3. Conservatives have promised unlimited services and unlimited tax cuts for 30 years, daring responsible lawmakers to either raise taxes, cut spending, or both, and face the wrath of the voters.  It takes leadership to call out this stupidity, and we simply haven’t had it.

  4. You are so right about the years of rhetorical “welfare queens” and “bloated bureaucrats” coming home to roost.

    This poll is a schizoid, state-wide suicide pact.  It’s simply shocking (even if not really surprising).

    The average Californian is walking around whacked in a Jarvis daze – adamant against any taxes, but expecting to keep all services.  

    I wish Field had asked an open-ended sort of question about where the cuts SHOULD come from.  I suspect the only remaining answer would be to “cut govt waste” some similar dazed gibberish imbibed from years of inhaling from the pipe of Reagan, Gingrich and Schwarza.

    Are we actually as doomed as this poll indicates?

  5. I think the poll results aren’t nearly as bad as everyone says, except for the EXTREMELY disturbing poll results on the two-thirds rule.

    But when you ask people the general open-ended question, “should the state balance the budget on tax increases or spending cuts,” of course people are going to say spending cuts.  Everyone likes the idea of “saving money.”

    What I find interesting is the part where they ask voters about specific revenue solutions:

    (1) Higher alcohol taxes: 73-26

    (2) Higher income taxes for millionaires: 74-25

    (3) Higher tobacco taxes: 75-25

    (4) Oil severanace tax: 54-39

    (5) Pornography tax: 80-18

    (6) Legalize pot and tax it: 56-42

    (7) Internet sales tax for out-of-staters: 51-47

    Less popular revenue solutions:

    (1) Expand sales tax to cover other items: 24-71

    (2) Higher gas taxes: 27-72

    (3) Float more bonds — i.e., the Arnold way: 36-57

    (4) Higher tax on business property: 37-58

    (5) Carbon tax: 45-51

  6. When the Democratic leadership and CTA are going around telling people that spending is a problem and that if we pass Prop 1A we’ll solve our problems.

    I hear this ALL the time, even from some people who think of themselves as progressives – that our problems would be solved if government just spent money smarter, got rid of the “waste”. Nobody really pushes back on this, so instead conservatism tightens its grip over California even as it’s being buried alive nationally.

  7. Nice to see that George Skelton gets it on the 2/3 rules (from today’s LAT):  “Start with the two-thirds majority vote requirement for passage of budgets and tax increases. That makes California practically ungovernable as it becomes more complex, diverse and polarized. Let the majority party govern and pay the price if it screws up!”

    Amen, and amen.

    Now all we need is informed, credible leadership that can communicate the message.

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