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Reactions Around California to State of the State

| February 1, 2011
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Just a sampling from around the state…

Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee
Brown’s Solomon-like plan faces two very high political hurdles – and a very tight time frame to boot. One is a Legislature dominated by very liberal Democrats and very conservative Republicans. The former are feeling heat from advocates for the poor, elderly and disabled who oppose the billions of dollars in permanent “safety net” spending cuts Brown wants, while the latter are being pressed by anti-tax groups to oppose tax extensions. Outwardly, nothing Brown said Monday appeared to change any minds. Republicans continued to oppose taxes while Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who has close ties to public employee unions and other budget stakeholders, reacted very coolly, portraying Brown’s budget as “worthy of serious consideration by every member of the Legislature.”

Capital Notes
One wonders how much longer the relatively civil political climate that’s dominated state politics these last few weeks can continue.
In fact, there’s a case to be made that it ended Monday night… when Governor Jerry Brown publicly prodded legislative Republicans, and they quickly fired back…

“You heard what I heard,” said Assembly GOP Leader Connie Conway. “It’s always about the taxes.”

Others were more critical. “The governor and legislative Democrats are throwing around nothing but hyperbole and scare tactics to justify doubling your car tax and raising your sales and income taxes,” said state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) in an emailed statement.

In interviews on the Assembly floor, Republicans also worked to debunk the idea that there should be a special statewide election in 2011.

“Right now the Legislature is capable of making the decisions that need to be made,” said Senate GOP Leader Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga).

Calitics
While (Brown) has been reluctant to point the proverbial gun at anybody’s head, that is what is pointing at our heads right now. If we simply go for a cuts only regime, there simply won’t be the cuts that we need to make to balance this thing. That’s especially true if Brown follows up on his no gimmicks plan.

But, this budget is far from a real winner. There is no real attempt to go after revenue that is a) more progressive and b) better for the state’s economy. Let’s face it, the sales taxes that he has proposed are far too weighted towards the poor and middle class as a percentage of income. The oil severance tax still hasn’t come up in a serious way. It’s just been a toss away from one Democratic legislator or another. (It was Tom Ammiano’s turn in his press release last night.)

We need real sustainable revenue that will pull us out of this boom/bust cycle. The revenues Brown is calling for makes for a decent emergency rescue plan, it’s not a real solution. “>

Sacramento Bee editorial
That proposal offers nearly every interest group something to hate. Big city mayors fear his plan to eliminate redevelopment. Lobbyists and advocates defend the interests of clients, wealthy and poor. Professional conservatives who operate tax-exempt nonprofit corporations are raising money from their adherents by taking the undemocratic stand that voters should be left out of the equation. But as Brown noted, naysayers offer no alternatives, other than to urge that he gore someone else’s ox. California needs to get back on track, and Brown’s budget is a starting point, imperfect as it is. Although he’s called for cuts in cell phone use and state cars, the governor needs to delineate further what cuts must take place to achieve $12.5 billion in cost savings.

San Francisco Chronicle editorial
On most big topics, Brown was by his own admission vague on the details. On pension reform, for example, he suggested he was open to others’ ideas on how to reform the system so that it is fair to taxpayers and state workers. His few moments of impassioned advocacy were reserved for his proposal to put the tax increases to voters in a June special election. He quoted the state Constitution and even invoked the struggles for democracy in Egypt and Tunisia in pushing for legislators to extend what were supposed to be temporarily higher taxes in upper incomes, sales and vehicle licenses.

Fox & Hounds Daily
The address felt like a slap in the face. Republicans got the open hand for refusing to consider tax increases (or even give the public a chance to vote on tax increases). Democrats and interest groups got hit for refusing to identify alternatives to cuts they oppose. Those shots were plenty fair. Brown’s targets are guilty as charged. But Brown might consider finding a lower horse to ride, for he is not without sin in this budget business himself.

Brown’s budget is more honest than recent documents, but it’s not a panacea. Its tax increases are temporary, not permanent. There’s plenty of one-time money and even a few gimmicks. And with California’s dysfunctional system constantly working to reduce revenues and add new spending mandates, Brown’s plan certainly won’t fix the budget problem once and for all. It kicks the can down the road, albeit further down the road than recent budgets.

In his speech, Brown went overboard big time, suggesting he’s the only one making serious budget proposals. He elevated his demand for a public vote on his plan – specifically its extension of temporary tax increases – into some kind of test of California’s commitment to democracy.

So let’s be clear: The vote Brown is proposing isn’t some glorious act of democracy. It’s a plebiscite. The state’s leader is demanding a certain vote at a certain time on a narrow question of his choosing. And he is not really asking a question. He is telling voters: Either embrace the particular tax increases I want or I will cut the things you care about. What are those things? Well, I can’t tell you right now. They’re too scary.

San Diego Union Tribune
(W)e wonder whether Brown sees the special election as a long shot that he has to pursue to prove to his allies that the public wants even tougher spending cuts – and has already begun planning to deal with that alarming prospect.

If Brown’s Plan B amounts to covering the $25 billion shortfall entirely with program cuts and a sweeping shift of certain responsibilities from the state to local governments, we would be disappointed.

But if his Plan B involves the sort of innovative approaches now under consideration in San Diego, that would be welcome. If voters won’t support raising taxes but want a certain minimum of services, elected leaders have very few choices but to downsize government, have some services be handled by the private sector, change compensation practices to limit pensions and “pensionable pay” and to end automatic raises based on years of service.

Capitol Weekly

In all honesty,” the governor said in his eighth State of the State address, “we have a right to get an alternative.” His budget blueprint, he said, “is the best I can devise.”

But there have been alternatives and budget-related suggestions offered either in legislation or in closed-door negotiations, including Republican-backed proposals for public pension reform, changes in the eight-hour work day and an easing of California environmental standards. The governor did not mention any of them, although late in the address he said he would eliminate “unreasonable regulations” that hamper job development, echoing a familiar theme of business interests.

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