Arnold Schwarzenegger’s address to the legislature was notable only for its fatuousness. He demands the destruction of the social safety net in California and pleads that we have “no choice,” while hiding the decisions he made which brought us to this point. He claims that his budget is not “just about cuts,” then offers the same reforms that the voters have time and again rejected, or half-measures like firing groundskeepers (to privatize school responsibilities to low-wage contractors, incidentally). Evidently, the May 19 special election, which has been massively over-interpreted and interpreted wrongly by the Governor, was supposedly a call to arms against tax increases, but a spending cap and rainy day fund, which were on the ballot and voted down by 66% of the electorate, are still viable ideas. He drew a line in the sand by calling for the dissolution of the Integrated Waste Management Board, an organization that IS NOT FUNDED WITH ONE PENNY FROM THE GENERAL FUND but instead with fees on garbage collectors. He talked about spending less per inmate on the prison population but his budget seeks only to get rid of precisely the services, rehabilitation, drug treatment and vocational training, that would lower recidivism rates, unstuff the prisons, and allow us to spend less on their management. He admitted that money from the sale of surplus property cannot go toward the General Fund, in a fleeting moment of truth, but claims it would lower our debt payments, which is true, but precisely what Arnold has been increases with borrow and spend policies for the last six years.
Of course, Arnold urged swift passage of all his Shock Doctrine proposals, because that’s how it works. The goal is to give nobody time to think, only to acquiesce in the face of crisis. Some, like Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, will not put her brain on autopilot, mindful of the Depression that would ensue from an all-cuts budget and the drastic consequences for our economy.
“The Governor’s opening statement that the voters in rejecting the special election measures said, “don’t ask us to solve complex budget issues, that’s your job,” is right,” she said. “He was wrong however in his assertion that Californians want an all cuts solution …We have choices. For instance, restoring the top income tax rate on high wealth incomes of $250,000 and above in place under Republican Governors Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan would allow us to avoid $4 billion of these cuts. Enacting an oil severance fee on oil drilled in California, revenue collected by every state and country in the world that produces significant amounts of oil, could avoid another $1 billion in cuts.
“The Governor talked of us acting courageously. Acting courageously is looking at all alternatives and making smart, rational choices that lessen the cuts with some sensible new revenues,” she said.
Noreen Evans, similarly, has stepped up, at least rhetorically, to offer a counter-weight to the Governor’s Shock Doctrine tactics:
SACRAMENTO – Santa Rosa Assemblywoman Noreen Evans is emerging as one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fiercest critics, a noteworthy development given her prominent role in the high-stakes back-and-forth over the state budget crisis […]
“I don’t know what the point of that exercise was, really,” the Democrat said immediately after the speech as she stood outside the Assembly chambers.
Schwarzenegger told Assembly and Senate lawmakers that he has “faith in our ability to once again come together for the good of the state.”
But Evans said the governor was not helpful “at all” in bridging the divide between Republican and Democrat lawmakers. Rather, she labeled Schwarzenegger’s approach to budget matters as one of “shock and awe.”
“It’s working because it’s shocking, and it’s awesome, and it’s terrible,” she said.
While there are some voices in the Legislature creating pushback, my experience is that the Democrats fall in line with their leadership (same with the Yacht Party, actually; it’s practically a Parliamentary system). And given the clear signs from Bass and Steinberg to bend over backwards to enable Arnold’s proposals and get it done quickly, I think the only way to halt this forward march would be to mass support inside the Capitol around specific proposals. For instance, the California Budget Project today released a report about the $2.5 billion corporate tax cuts included in recent budgets in September 2008 and February 2009, cuts we certainly cannot afford in this economic climate. If everyone must share in the pain, as the Governor said, that must mean something. And so these $2.5 billion in corporate giveaways ought to be repealed. Period. Full stop. Here are some of the gems from these tax breaks:
Nine corporations, dubbed the “lucky nine” in the CBP’s analysis, will receive tax cuts averaging $33.1 million each in 2013-14 due to the adoption of the elective single sales factor apportionment, according to estimates by the Franchise Tax Board.
Eighty percent of the benefits of elective single sales factor apportionment will go to the 0.1 percent of California corporations with gross incomes over $1 billion.
Six corporations will receive tax cuts averaging $23.5 million each in 2013-14 from the adoption of credit sharing.
Eighty-seven percent of the benefits of credit sharing will go to the 0.03 percent of California corporations with gross incomes over $1 billion.
Are there 27 Democrats in the Assembly, or 14 in the Senate, willing to go to the mat to force the repeal of these unnecessary corporate giveaways, providing revenue that can go to the poor, the sick, the infirm, the elderly? Rank and file Democrats never think to show their power in these negotiations. In a time of crisis, they should – and force the Governor toward a more equitable solution. Richard Holober’s post, which I referenced earlier, closes with this:
It’s time to re-unite a fractured progressive movement – based on hope, not fear. We need leadership that can think beyond the imminent crisis, reach out to build a coalition, and organize for budget justice. Labor and community based activist organizations must supply the leadership.
Let’s mobilize behind broadly supported values: require corporations to pay their fair share of taxes; increase the progressivity of our tax system; and eliminate undemocratic super-majority budget and tax rules that give a handful of reactionary politicians a stranglehold over funding our schools, health and public safety services. The campaign may take years. We can win, but first we need to get out of the budget crisis bunker.
Which politicians will enable us to escape that bunker?