Budget signed, but talk of winners and losers goes on

150 150 John Guenther

Now that the California budget is passed, lawmakers are preparing to take their month-long summer vacation for the first time in several years, as well as deal with other issues, instead of what has become the usual months-long budget stalemate.

As the state prepares to turn its attention from the budget to other matters, there is some talk of who won the short-term and long-term battles, and whether California citizens are winners at all.

In today’s Sacramento Bee, Kevin Yamamura takes a closer look at the role Prop. 25 and each political party played in this year’s budget play.

Just before Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state budget with little fanfare last week, Assembly Republicans celebrated at Downtown Ford, standing before cars they said would become cheaper overnight because they blocked tax extensions.

“This is a great day for California,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks. “The death of these taxes is the rebirth of our economy.”

If Republicans judge themselves by taxes alone, they scored a victory this year. But Capitol experts say they also lost for the foreseeable future their best opportunity to reduce pensions, impose a stronger spending cap, or roll back regulations that affect businesses.

“It’s up to them going forward if they want to put all of their resources into one issue or spread them between more,” said Dan Schnur, a former GOP strategist and director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “Right now, they are a one- issue party in the Legislature.”

Without GOP support, 2009 tax hikes on sales and vehicles expired Friday. The lack of tax extensions will result in college tuition hikes, delayed payments to K-12 schools and further reductions to courts. Republicans declined to cast votes for many of those cost-cutting measures.

“When you look at this budget that was presented, and it was a Democrat budget, not ours, they are the ones who chose who got cut,” said Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare. “They are the ones that made the priorities. So if people are suffering and hurting, they need to contact the people who did that to them. Our agenda was to put the money back in the taxpayers’ pocket.”

Republicans’ business allies were less satisfied by last week’s budget outcome.

The California Chamber of Commerce sought a bipartisan compromise with governance changes and broad-based taxes.

“I think there were lost opportunities here,” said Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO of the chamber. “The programs that were not funded are important to creating certainty for someone who wants to come to California.”

Proposition 25 allows Democrats to pass their own budget on a majority vote, but the constitution requires that they obtain a two-thirds supermajority for taxes or placing constitutional amendments on the ballot. Because Brown wanted both as part of his budget plan, Republicans had a negotiating window.

“They missed a chance for reforms,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, on the night of the final budget vote. “I feel sad for them. I feel sad for California. There’s so much more we could do together.”

California Forward hopes that changes to the budgeting process, including multi-year and performance-based budgeting (currently being considered in the legislature) make the process more transparent, collaborative, and stable.

To read Kevin Yamamura’s full article, click here.


John Guenther

All stories by: John Guenther