Tag Archives: school budget cuts

A union guy, a bear and Grover Norquist walk into a bar

The punch line is at the end of the story.

A School Financial Emergency was declared on January 6th
“There’s simply no other way to describe it: this is an emergency, every day, teachers, school employees, and principals are performing miracles, but the $18 billion in cuts over the last three years are taking their toll. We have 174 districts teetering on the financial brink. If this isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is.” Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, declared before the latest even deeper $5B CUT TO K-12 FUNDING for the coming school year. Predictions from Torlakson’s office are that cuts for K-12 could result in either huge class sizes OR the school year starting in OCTOBER. Districts will respond differently, some could layoff, tap reserves or pass parcel taxes. Statewide, school superintendents are being polled by Torlakson as to what they plan to do when the $5B budget cut to K-12 is made.

Governor Brown ended budget negotiations on March 29, abandoning talks with Republicans on closing California's $26.6 billion deficit, effectively ending what has been his primary goal since taking office: a bipartisan plan that would include a June ballot measure. Brown will now try to get a revenue source on the ballot in November by collecting the 700,000 plus signatures required. Legislative Republicans took the Grover Norquist pledge not to raise taxes and refuse to put the question on the ballot. Breaking the Norquist pledge invites retribution as does breaking the first rule of bears.

The first rule of bears: Never get between momma and cubs. Preventing California voters from deciding about the extensions; that would start the school year on time, violates the first rule of bears. Until the school year starts the cubs will remind momma why they are home.

This is more important than the California Budget in 2011. California leads a nation watching how we respond to the conservative attack and how we re-frame the situation as: California does not have money for education and vital services because protected by the Norquist pledge; many of the largest corporations are not paying fair shares. You can help get out the word and make the PTA/soccer moms, pops and grandparents aware of the DANGER to the cubs.

How can Brown bring labor issues (collective bargaining etc) in line with momma bears angered by K-12 cuts? The GOP will blame unions for revenue shortfalls because of pensions. The unions will be funding the ballot initiatives Brown is now talking about. It costs a megabuck or two to get enough signatures just for one ballot measure. Unions are the ONLY possible source of funds for the ballot measure. The question is: What to go for?

  • Just the extension: If passed still means at least $14B in cuts compared to the last year's budget.
  • 1% on > $500K incomes: Raises additional $2.5B – voters like this one
  • Oil excise tax at the well head: Raises $2.5B but invites a fight with the oil lobby
  • Assessment of property owned by large publicly held corporations when > 100% of stock is sold cumulatively a specific number of times (stock for large companies changes hands about 100%/year. Chevron & Exxon stock for a particular day traded 1/250 of the total stock value of each company. There are about 250 trading days/year) Making the requirement 3 to 5 x 100% is practical. It would have to be retroactive, so that corporations would have to be assessed immediately for taxes in 2011. This would cover the entire $26B all by itself. It better include funding for the assessor's offices.
  • Something completely different!

Which of these alternatives the unions decide to sponsor will determine the financial future of California. Union officials are duty bound to their members to act in the members’ best interests and not to waste funds on activities that are likely to fail. The unions have to determine who they will be opposing because getting the initiative on the ballot is just the start. Getting it passed with well financed opposition will be difficult.

The punch line: A union guy, a bear and Grover Norquist walk into a bar to meet Jerry Brown for lunch. What did they eat? Whatever the bear wanted. Who picked up the bill? Depends on what the bear orders.  Moral: There is no free lunch.