We’ve been counting down(or should I say up) the days since the State’s budget was due. It really doesn’t matter whether you start from June 15th or July 1st because it rarely comes in on time, regardless of the date you pick. While it is always easiest for the public to focus on the simple fact that the budget is late rather than why, it’s about time we looked at the why so maybe we can start fixing the fundamental problems that make this yearly exercise so exercising to the public.
Unlike the almost whimsical reports of spay/neuter issues that have aroused the extraordinary passions on both sides of that issue,(will Lassie or Bob Barker from the Price is Right prevail?) it’s hard to get people to focus on the more mundane aspects of why we have this annual food-fight when it comes to getting our financial house in order. Let’s start with the fundamental problem that exists in California and those two other large and complex states–Rhode Island and Alabama: It requires two-thirds of the legislature to approve a budget. Until one of the two parties in this state grows big enough to take over 2/3’s of each of the legislative houses, this will continue to be the fundamental roadblock to an on-time budget.
That’s a fairly simple concept to explain and follow. If the Dems say “yes” the Reps will say “no”. Of course, the discussion needs to go beyond the obvious behavior of every two year old who learns what power is by saying “no” to everything, so the Reps claim to be behaving responsibly by say, “We can’t spend more than we bring in and we won’t raise taxes ” (or close tax loopholes for big corporations and the ultra-rich).
The Dems say, “We can’t cut services to the neediest among us, or compromise educating our children, so we want you to tell us where we should cut, because you won’t agree to raise taxes and we can’t provide all the services mandated or expected by the public.” Reps respond, “We’ve just got to learn to live within our means,” (while ignoring the example set by their Commander in Chief in Washington who has all but bankrupted the public fisc).
While that argument on its face may seem fair enough, the question that must then be answered is, “where to cut”? That requires a level of honesty and courage that doesn’t come easily to the NOSAYERS. So we hit an impasse.
Add to that the political games going on within the Republican “Caucus”. It’s almost like being George Bush: Who can demonstrate he’s the toughest guy in town? Can the “leadership” of Ackerman in the Senate and Villignes in the Assembly hang toughest and keep their troops aligned and unified by refusing to budge an inch? If not, there will be some other tough guy ready to pounce and replace them and show just how well they can “stay the course”–which we know to be a dangerously failed strategy today on many different levels.
So, the question is when will the Governor step in and try to move his own party forward? The Dems, much to their chagrin, have compromised with Schwarzenegger to reach a middle ground, but where are the Reps? Why hasn’t or can’t the Governor get his own party to move to the center? It’s likely that as time goes by a little more, and vendors and workers don’t see their state funding or paychecks that the pressure will mount. The inevitable dance will begin and the only question will be, who will blink first? Will the Dems relent and let the poorest and neediest be sacrificed yet again? Or will the Reps pretend they’ve held tough while letting the “spin” machine the Governor has so well-honed do its clever but misleading work? TIme is running out. Let the games begin!