When I first arrived in Sacramento to begin my legislative career, I was told straight out that the most important votes I would cast each year would be on the budget.
I was reminded that the budget is the state’s moral document; it reflects the priorities of the state to the neediest among us, to the future and to our vision of who we are as a people. It should be fair and responsible. It is a document that reflects our compassion, our sense of purpose and our values.
So here we are in 2007, with a budget that leaks red ink because of structural deficits (that means because we’re required to spend certain amounts for various programs, etc. that cost more than we bring in). We’ve had these structural problems for years—as we load more and more requirements onto government but refuse to increase income to pay for them.
Our Governor says we should sell off some of these programs to bring in one-time dollars (and then let the private sector run amock without accountability or commitment to serving the public, just their profits). He also says we should pay back Wall Street instead of making sure that the kids on Main Street have food and shelter to help them grow and live with basic human dignity. He says we can’t ask the wealthy for more, or close tax loopholes for bloated multi-national corporations that take our services but won’t pay for them. Instead, we’ll just ignore the blind, the elderly, the disabled and children of the poor and cut their already puny “aid”. After all, why should those with so much be asked to share even a small amount with those who have so little? Why should corporations that make millions off of Californians and the freeways and infrastructure we’ve created for their use have to compensate the state for the benefits that come to them as a result?
Assembly Speaker Nunez calls the budget “mean-spirited.” I think that’s being kind. I see it as the Governor finally coming out behind Maria’s supposed compassionate skirts and showing us just how cold and heartless he really is. After all, there are many other ways to close the budget gap than doing it on the backs of the elderly, the disabled, the poor and oh yes, our students. They’ll likely see a 10% increase in their fees over the next year, so the biggest fat-cats among us don’t have to add a few crumbs to the state’s coffers to help those who, but for the grace of god, they may be.
How about closing those corporate loopholes? How about adding an oil severance tax so that Big Oil that continues to show record billion-dollar profits has to pay into the state coffers the way they do in EVERY OTHER oil producing state?
Or better yet, how about the Governor living up to his own hype about being the “Collectinator” and getting us back at least a portion of the over $50 BIllion we pay out to the Feds that we don’t see back in the form of services or reimbursements to our state? We’re a big donor state, but we get back less of each dollar we pay than most other states in the nation. We receive about 77 cents for every dollar we pay out in federal taxes. If we could just get back $5 Billion of that overage- a mere 10%, we’d be whole and wouldn’t have to cut important services to those who barely scrape by in life. Then we wouldn’t have to hear that stale and simplistic Republican refrain that we have a “spending problem, not a revenue problem.” Whatever the true problem, it would be gone—we could do all the things the public wants done and do it without needing more revenues to accomplish them.
I’ve been listening closely to all Schwarzenegger’s bravado, but haven’t heard him call himself the “Collectinator” for quite some time. This would have been a golden opportunity to do so and to use his bully pulpit to call on the Feds to loosen its stranglehold on our money and give some of it back to us. With the billions of dollars we’re short and a population with so many in need, the feds shouldn’t be holding so much of our money. We should be demanding that more of it come back to us! And didn’t this governor promise us that he would?
We can do better and we should be thoroughly embarassed that the Governor of this state would rather take the money away from the neediest among us to pay off Wall Street early—even before the payments to the fat cats are due. After all, isn’t a society only as strong as its weakest link? Isn’t a leader only as effective as his/her commitment to protect the most vulnerable he or she is supposed to protect?
Of course, Arnold doesn’t have time to ponder this. He’s off raising more record amounts of money from the very wealthy who want to dine with him for a mere $25,000 a pop. He’s already taken in over $700,000 for the month of May and over $2.7 Million in contributions since January 1, 2007. Since the poor and disabled aren’t able to fill his campaign warchests so why bother responding to their needs when you can rake in the dough and do the bidding of Big Business like the big health care industry which has important legislation heading for his desk?
In truth, if Arnold was a real leader, he’d be thinking more about those who have less than making sure he continues to accumulate more and more. No doubt that if he ever had a moral compass, it’s long gone. He’s been bought and paid for many millions of dollars over—and over.
George Skelton thinks this might all be about creating bargaining chips in the debate. These things happen in politics, but isn’t it a shame that the governor is willing to use our most vulnerable as his chips? I guess once a bully always a bully. Yes, the budget is a moral document and it reflects the moral values of the state. Let’s hope our elected officials can demonstrate greater moral character than this governor.