No Real Reform = ‘No’ Vote on Budget

The prospect of over $25b coming out of the California economy-more than was added by the federal stimulus-is a terrifying thought. In addition to the immediate havoc this budget will wreak-for example on the lives of the thousands of people losing their jobs as a result of this-it also stands to work long-term damage to the pillars of California’s economy by, among other things, permanently diminishing our ability to generate the kind of knowledge workers that out tech-heavy economy demands.

It’s bad.

But we’re not even being asked to sacrifice for a better tomorrow. We’re being asked to take it on the chin for a worse tomorrow. I am not writing to vent my spleen about one or even ten aspects of this horrible budget. Believe it or not, almost no matter what your issue is, I agree. Even with the concept that ideally this would include no taxes. That is because I believe that California requires a stimulative budget, not a contractionary one. (That’s for another diary). The point is this: nothing about this grand compromise does anything to address any of the structural problems that face the state. Before I would even consider some of the draconian tradeoffs in this package, I would demand that a number of referenda be put on the ballot addressing real reform.

More on the flip.

Politically, I have never understood why Sacramento Democrats have been so eager to own these budgets. We have an unpopular Republican governor and a Republican minority that wields veto power over the process, even if there are less of them. That we’re always looking to buy three GOP votes seems to be ludicrous, especially when the plan conforms to their chief demand of no taxes.

From a purer policy perspective, everybody knows that the reasons for these Rube Goldberg-machine-style budgets stem in large part from defects in our Constitution. It’s not simply a push-pull on taxing and spending. I believe that, ironically, the problem is that the Legislature doesn’t have enough power. Giving these folks more power is a thought that might scare many Californians, but I think people need to start thinking more seriously about these so-called “down-ticket” races. The fact that we don’t think enough about them-and that contentious issues like gay marriage get punted to the ballot box-gives these folks a pass on everything tough except the budget, where for reasons we are all familiar with, they can’t do much, especially without a 2/3 voting bloc.

The Democratic party has made it a priority to eliminate the 2/3 rule. So why aren’t they demanding that a vote on that be part of the budget deal? This seems like the kind of principled stand that would appeal to voters. I would also ask that a number of other reforms be put on the ballot too: for example, a quorum requirement on ballot initiatives, Prop 13 reform, eliminating term limits, increasing the number of legislators, and un-“lock-box”ing a number of state funds, if not simply an up or down vote on a Constitutional convention. It’s not just that they’re not doing what little old me wants, they’re not doing this at all.

For someone who gave until it hurt, who drove across the country, and who basically put my career in neutral to get Obama elected in 2008 (after supporting someone else in the primary!), I find it hard to get even minimal motivation to support the state level party, when they seem to only do anything when their interest groups tell them to (even if my interests are often aligned with those groups), when they act in a herd-like fashion, and when they show a propensity for playing checkers at a chess match and bringing knives to a nuclear war.

The last time I was at a local party meeting and I addressed the group, I gave what I thought was a forceful speech about the need to fight the GOP at every turn (a la Churchill) the party mandarins stared at me like I was a crazy person. Maybe I am, but I doubt I would do a much worse job at this.

2 thoughts on “No Real Reform = ‘No’ Vote on Budget”

  1. We seem to have our foot pressed all the way down on the gas pedal in the race to a liquidity trap.  Brother, can you spare a dime.

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