While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.2 No. 2

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento
For the week ending January 12, 2008

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the
Past week and beyond
With the Presidential Primary and an assortment of ballot measures coming to the fore between now and Election Day, February 5, 2008, Speak Out California is pleased to announce its highly acclaimed one-stop voter guide will be posted on our site within the next few days. We’ll be sending it out to our regular subscribers so watch for it in your email!
With seven ballot measures to evaluate and decide, the electioneering is well under-way. Let Speak Out California help you sift through all the hype and conflicting claims of what they do and don’t do. We’ll provide the progressive perspective on the propositions and give you the key links to all the information you’ll need to decide for yourselves, regardless of the millions of dollars being spent by those selling their positions on each of the measures. It’s democracy without the dollars, just as it should be. So watch for the Voter Guide coming to you this week!
So what’s happening in Sacramento?
As predicted, the proverbial fiscal mess has hit-the-fan in Sacramento. With the convergence of a dysfunctional tax and budget process coupled with the collapse of a greed-driven sub-prime mortgage lending scheme, the uncontrolled and unconscionable profiteering by the oil industry and other greed-driven policies, condoned and supported by the Bush administration and its multi-national corporate owners, the State of California is now among the first states to experience the full impact of this federal administration’s failed approach to governance. Although the budget mess has many sources, the state has an enormous task ahead to fix the latest in a series of budget messes fed by economic failures in combination with unworkable structural constraints.
While the Governor is chanting the Right-wing mantra of no new taxes, no matter what, the Dems are calling for all options to be on the table. The Governor has unveiled his promised 10% across the board cuts which have both sides howling about the dangers and inequities of such serious action. Of course, that’s the point.
With the two major Democratic presidential candidates starting to create at least a partial California presence as they head into Super Tuesday, Hillary and Barack have each carved out a role in two of the key issues so important to progressives.
As mentioned, the television and media campaigns have started to heat up with the Proposition proponents and opponents starting to burn the TV markets with their 30 second sound bites on what’s good and bad about the measures they’ll be voting on between now and Super Tuesday. And again, Californians won’t be disappointed at the hype and confusion each claim seems to generate.
We here at Speak Out California hope to be able to keep you up-to-date on all of this in the weeks and months ahead, so
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The Continuing Budget Mess: The fiscal emergency is here
This week the Governor unveiled his proposed budget. While this is never taken too seriously, because it is based on prognostications and not fact, the Governor has signaled, in no uncertain terms, that there will be lots of pain in the cuts that appear inevitable with an expected shortfall of over $14 billion expected over the next 18 months.
Schwarzenegger’s approach is an interesting one. Although no one truly believes this hole can be filled with cuts alone, he’s presently beating the Republican drum of “no new taxes” and in the process watching as the Reps howl as well. The Governor is proposing cutting services and programs that the Reps hate—like the social safety net and providing healthcare and services to the elderly, the disabled and the poor. But he’s also proposing to release over 22,000 inmates from our state prisons on an early release program. He claims this will save the state over $1 Billion. Included in the prison cuts would be over 6,000 Department of Corrections jobs, either by attrition or lay-offs. Without taking a position on the appropriateness of any of these calls, this one has them ballistic. There’s also a call for suspending the guaranteed funding for education (Prop 98), slashing health care programs and closing 48 State Parks. For a more comprehensive look at what’s being proposed and the anticipated impact of such cuts, check out :
For additional analysis on what this all means, Frank Russo has it covered at:
http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2008/01/californians_ne.html and http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2008/01/schwarzenegger_64.html
Amidst all these severe and draconian proposals, there is wide-spread speculation that the Governor is just practicing a fiscal version of “tough love”. With cuts this extreme, many important and popular programs and services will be decimated. It is unlikely that the legislature or public will stand for this. The question is whether the Gov is for real on this no new taxes pledge, or whether he’s just setting the stage for a “compromise” of cuts and taxes when the time comes to pass next year’s budget. If you enjoy the dance, the Sac Bee has more on this at : http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/626307.html and http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/626364.html
Health care “reform” still in play
In spite of the enormous short-fall, the Gov and Speaker Nunez are still insisting that we go forward with this $14 Billion program to require that all Californians buy health insurance. In spite of numerous problems and questions about viability, practicality and good practice, the measure is scheduled for a hearing this coming week in Senator Sheila Kuehl’s Senate Health Committee. While no one should underestimate the determination of the Speaker and Gov on this issue, the outcome of this proposal is simply too hard to foresee at this time.
Adding to the interest, this week Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama weighed in on the debate by participating in a TV spot sponsored by the California Nurses Association, a strong opponent of this health insurance based proposal. Obama unrealistically calls for a plan that requires everyone to purchase insurance under the observation that the reason people don’t have insurance now is that they can’t afford it. If they can’t afford it now, how can you mandate that they purchase it anyway- Good question.
Lawsuits and rulings of the week:
California’s suit against the EPA gets another strong endorsement

Not to be denied, while in California on a brief campaign stop this week, Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton came out publicly and strongly in support of California’s latest legal effort to allow a waiver for our state’s effort to engage in global warming mitigation. With 14 other states in tow as well, this suit is not only a no-brainer legally, but one that makes good sense for our state’s effort to take the lead in moving away from the behaviors and products that have made global warming such an imminent threat to our planet.
The Rest of the Story
Our blogging offerings for the week:

Senior Researcher Dave Johnson has taken a hard look at the provocative
issue of taxes in two blogs this week:
We Can’t Afford Prop 13 anymore”
“Do Taxes Drive California’s Economy

There will certainly be more on this important discussion in the weeks and months ahead as California decides whether it wants to make the investment in its people and future or whether we’re willing to be in the mediocre middle of our country. Stay tuned for more …………..
To read and comment on these entries just go to: www.speakoutca.org/weblog/
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Until next week,
Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team