Former Speaker of the Assembly Antonio Villaraigosa, now in his second term as Mayor of Los Angeles, is stepping up to provide the leadership other Democrats have been unwilling to offer. He has written to the Assembly asking its members to reject the budget deal:
Dear Honorable Assembly Member:
I write to ask that you vote no on the proposed budget deal.
On Monday night, our state’s leaders emerged from negotiations to announce a so-called “landmark deal” – a proposal that would balance our books, close the fiscal gap, end the budget stalemate, and place California back on sound financial footing. Though some have tried to paint a portrait of progress, allow me to remind you of a few sobering facts.
This deal throws thousands of local government budgets out of balance and rips open deficits that local leaders have worked tirelessly to close. In the City of Los Angeles, the budget proposal adds an additional $261 million to our current year deficit.
If the proposed budget deal is approved, the very constituents the state is claiming to protect will experience drastic cuts in services that impact every facet of their daily lives. More municipal employees will lose jobs, essential economic development projects will cease, and transportation and traffic woes will worsen.
Furthermore, these cuts will undermine the expectations brought by the passage of the Federal Stimulus Package, the 2006 State Infrastructure Bonds, and other local voter-approved investments in infrastructure and programs. Together, these impacts will deepen our financial woes, erode voter confidence and cripple our ability to initiate a financial recovery.
Despite several trips to Sacramento with other California mayors, state leaders failed to include us in the budget discussion. Our offers of partnership and collaboration were cast aside even as critical local government funds were used to fill the budget gap.
Suggestions that would have helped the state move forward while keeping local government whole were ignored.
From the beginning, we acknowledged that local governments would to be a part of the solution, but never fathomed that our offer to be a partner would result in us carrying the disproportionate load. Consequently, I urge you to engage with cities and counties to find a more balanced approach to solve this deficit.
This is a good letter overall, explaining that the budget will hurt vulnerable Californians, undermine the national economic recovery effort, and hammers local governments that have already had to make difficult decisions to balance their own recession-battered budgets.
Still no word from Gavin Newsom or Jerry Brown, the two men who Villaraigosa left standing in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor. Villaraigosa, like Newsom, has generated his share of controversy and opposition from progressives during his term as mayor, but this is a welcome sign of leadership.
Will the legislature heed his call? There are rumors that some Assembly Dems may balk at K-14 cuts. The legislative sessions are about to begin – it is going to be a long and very interesting night in the Capitol.
UPDATE by Robert: It is worth noting that there is a specific dispute here about raiding local government funds. Villaraigosa joined mayors from Fresno, San Jose, Santa Ana, Sacramento and Long Beach on a conference call today to argue against the raid on redevelopment funds – but they might be OK with a Prop 1A raid:
The mayors said they’d prefer the state borrow money from cities and counties under Proposition 1-A, rather than seize redevelopment and transportation funds. Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido echoed his peers.
Prop 1A, passed in 2004, enables the state to raid local government funds, but only with a 2/3 vote of the legislature and with an ironclad requirement that the money be repaid – with interest – within 3 years.
Still, Villaraigosa’s letter made a broader attack on the budget deal, and did clearly call for a “no” vote. So I leave it to you to decide what exactly is going on here.
UPDATE by Robert: As we settle in for what is likely to be a long night, one of the best resources for info is the #cabudget hashtag on Twitter, which includes @ccleague reporting that “CalWORKs, Redevelopment securitization/1A/HUTA and oil drilling” are “threatening” the budget deal.