A Majority Vote Is Needed
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is wary of the recent budget deal signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and is calling on voters to fix the state’s dysfunctional budget process by passing Propositions 24 and 25 on this year’s November ballot.
Brushing aside the wishes of voters who participated in budget forums around the state organized by Assembly Speaker John Perez’s office in April, the new budget plan provides about $200 million worth of subsidies to cable TV companies and the timber industry and a reduction in penalties for corporations that evade their income tax obligations in exchange for smaller cuts to social service programs and education.
This is the price for having to kowtow to a minority party that cynically exploits the state’s two-thirds budget rule to manipulate the lives of average citizens in favor of arranging tax subsidies benefiting only the wealthiest one percent.
Additionally, Schwarzenegger’s desire to revive a ballot measure that would lock in state spending at unrealistic levels is intellectually dishonest and fiscally irresponsible, especially since voters previously rejected this proposal.
Sadly, it is actions like these that are pushing California further into Third World mediocrity.
A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that Sacramento could produce an annual budget surplus by simply closing loopholes in California’s tax code, which replicates many federal tax breaks and creates an additional 36 loopholes of its own.
Among the many wasteful tax expenditures programs listed were the state’s failed enterprise zone program, which costs taxpayers $500 million a year, and $3 billion worth of tax breaks granted to multinational corporations in 2009 as a condition of passing the state budget.
While legislators wisely chose to delay some ($1.2 billion) of these corporate tax breaks during this year’s budget melee, passing Proposition 24 would permanently repeal those tax expenditure programs and generate much needed revenue for the state at a time when 12% of Californians are unemployed.
Voters can also ensure that future state budgets are negotiated out in the open and passed in a timely manner by voting for Proposition 25, which would change the requirement for passing a state budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.
To date, most state budget deals have been hashed out behind closed doors by a select group of five individuals including the governor, assembly speaker, senate president pro tem, and minority leaders before being rammed through for a vote in both chambers.
This practice undermines our democracy and makes a mockery of the state budget process.
The common sense reforms above are designed to address the structural nature of California’s deficit problem.
Then we can turn our attention back to more important things like figuring out how to put people back to work.