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Faced with NO PAY, CA legislators offer balanced budget!

(Note added June 22, 2011: Oops! Except that it wasn’t BALANCED…!)

Way back :-) on June 2,  State Controller John Chiang (a Democrat) said that he would permanently withold California lawmakers’ pay and per diem starting June 16 if they do not pass a balanced budget and send it to the governor by June 15. Last November, California voters authorized Proposition 25, which allows the docking of legislators’ pay if they did not agree to a budget by the mid-June deadline. Today is June 14. Guess what? Today, California legislators proposed a balanced budget that cuts billions from education, but will likely allow them to keep collecting their pay. After all – which is more important? :-) Significantly, since Republicans have opposed the EXTENSION of an existing, temporary tax increase, the proposed budget DOES NOT INCLUDE a tax component, and will require only a simple majority, rather than a 2/3 majority, to pass. Democrats control both houses.

Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, wanted to use and extension of the temporary tax increases to close California’s $26 billion deficit, but Republicans have refused to approve putting the measure on the ballot. Instead, Democrats have proposed a budget that does away with the tax extension and relies on other cuts and revenue measures to make it balanced.

The proposed budget will cut $3 billion more from schools and delay the repayment of $744 million that the state borrowed (some say “stole”) from school districts. The budget counts on taxes coming in higher than originally forecast, as they are indeed doing! State Universities will lose another $300 million (guess where universities will likely recoup THAT money), and the courts will lose $150 million. Vehicle registration fees will increase by $12 to support the Department of Motor Vehicles (a power responsible only to God :-) ), and some other vehicle fees with shift to the state general fund.

Early this spring, the California Legislature closed $14 billion of the budget gap. By early May, tax revenues were coming in $2.5 billion higher than forecast! Brown revised the budget in mid-May but Republican legislators refused to put a tax measure on the ballot without a spending cap and reforms in pensions and regulations.

In a state with legislative extremists of the Right and Left, Governor Brown appears to have evolved into a moderate, or at least a pragmatist. This is good, because California has a lot of problems to solve. Republicans, for their part, face a new dilemma, as the result of the redrawing of voting districts by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission: reinvent themselves, or disappear! Some may disappear anyway, leaving Democrats with MORE than the 2/3 majority needed to raise taxes – not always a good thing!

Readers in California can learn how their district has been redrawn here, by entering their address.

(Note added June 15, 2011: TODAY, a skirmish broke out during budget debates in the CA State Assembly [not on a par with those of the South Korean Parliament :-) ] in which two Assemblymembers had to be RESTRAINED physically by their colleagues! This one goes out to my Italian-American friends and classmates in Ohio!)

-Bill at

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