This was a big week for conservatives. The immigration bill, while flawed, would have been a step in the right direction for fixing a system that forces more than 12 million people in America to live in the shadows. Conservatives in the US Senate succeeded in killing that bill, which means that there won't be any meaningful immigration reform until 2009. Then, the Supreme Court showed its new, solid conservative colors with 3 (three!) blockbuster conservative rulings. One decision gave corporations all kinds of free speech guarantees in election campaigns. Another ruling issued the same day limited the free speech rights of student protestors. And the third 5-4 conservative court decision rolled back the clock on racial equality all the way back to the 1950's. So, perhaps inspired by the conservative movement's stunning successes in Washington, conservative Republicans in Sacramento dug in their heels and refused to allow a budget to pass the Assembly before start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
Democrats in Sacramento had a budget ready to go – one with painful cuts in important services like education. For example, fees at California universities would see no relief in the Democratic budget, and a planned boost of $400 million for K-12 schools also didn't make the cut. Traffic a problem in your part of California? The Democrats trimmed more than half a billion dollars for transit projects in an attempt to keep state spending at reasonable levels. All this wasn't nearly enough for Assembly Republicans, though – they want even deeper cuts.
I'm left scratching my head. Aren't we living in one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world? Why do we need to so deeply cut such essential programs as K-12 education? There must be some way that California can do better.
Budgets require two-thirds of the Assembly to approve – which means that some Republicans have to join in with the Democratic majority. Democrats say the Republican Governor would sign the budget they've proposed, but not a single Republican is willing to cross the aisle. So much for that post-partisan era.
And this stalemate has already had real consequences. The Sacramento Bee reports that community colleges have already been told by Controller John Chiang that the state will be unable to give a promised $177 million by the end of July. If the Republicans can't agree on a budget by the end of the month, then I might not get my paycheck as a teacher at UC Santa Barbara. If there's no budget in place in the next 14 days or so, then some summer school programs will fall apart. In short, this isn't a fun little political science project – this budget showdown is already having serious consequences.
Don't you think California can do better than this? I, for one, hope that this wave of conservative victories comes to an abrupt end. Maybe the progressives in Washington will be so inspired by the new California budget (when it finally passes), that they decide to impeach the Neocon in Chief. I'm dreaming? You're right – I am dreaming.