Speaker Karen Bass
Senator Rod Wright
Assemblyman Mike Davis
California’s State Budget Fiasco
IOUs, Furlough Fridays, Early Prison Releases, Reduced Services, Tuition Increases and a Decline in Credit Rating … What’s Next?
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Assistant Managing Editor
California State Constitution requires that the Governor submit a budget to the legislature annually and if the proposed expenditures for the period exceed the estimated revenues, the Governor is required to recommend the sources for new and/or additional streams of revenue. The state’s fiscal year began July the first and the state government has not yet been able to produce a budget for the 2009/2010 fiscal period, and it is the mid-July. Sacramento is in gridlock.
Preparing the state budget, as a practical matter, would require a combined effort of the executive and the legislative branches. But the present economic environment notwithstanding, Sacramento is experiencing major gridlock – the state’s economic house is a disaster: state workers are required to take three days off per month, unpaid; the state has been issuing IOUs instead of solid checks to pay its bills; early release of non-violent prisoners has been necessitated; and social services have been cut back drastically, and in some cases totally eliminated.
The Sentinel asked the Speaker of the Assembly, Karen Bass, for a status report on the budget crisis. She explained, “I do believe that we will reach an agreement before the week is over; we probably won’t be voting for it though because once we reach an agreement, it takes several days to get everything drafted.” She sounded very optimistic and as one who is in the midst of the state’s financial tsunami, she ought to know but was being cautious.
It’s about two weeks since the state started sending out IOUs and the major banks has stopped honoring them. The parties are holding marathon negotiations sessions trying to reach a consensus on the $26.3 billion budget deficit.
“If the governor has his way, there’ll be massive layoffs,” Bass continued. “And we continue to be in the worst recession since the Great Depression so everything happening in Sacramento has to be viewed in the national context. We’ve gotten quite a lot of stimulus money but it is not designed to bail us out of this situation. The schools would be much worse off had it not been for the stimulus money.”
Furthermore, there was no sign that either side was giving ground on the question of cuts to schools that would require suspending Proposition 98. (Proposition 98 is a law that requires a minimum percentage of the state budget to be spent on K-14 education. It also guarantees an annual increase in education in the state budget and can only be suspended by a two-thirds vote of the legislature). Many of the pink slips given teachers would not be rescinded if Proposition 98 were suspended.
“We are continuing to experience unprecedented revenue shortfalls that require painful cuts to important services for my constituents,” said Senator Roderick D. Wright. “I am acutely aware of the impact of these proposed actions, especially since we covered this territory only four months ago. However, we legislators must make these difficult decisions and pass a budget now, because each day that goes by will only make matters worse.”
Assemblyman Mike Davis told the Sentinel, “We need to target the corporations, the big oil companies. We are in an unusual situation of an economic downturn, in other words, we are broke and everyone needs to be a part of the solution. We also have to look at the tobacco company and have a small increase fee there.”
Every legislator seems to have a part of the solution readily available; the problem appears to be unifying all the differing factions and parts together into one whole (budget).
“Here is my concern with the entire budget process,” Davis continued. “Whatever the differences are between Republicans and Democrats, our responsibility is to complete the task in a timely manner – July first being that date. The buck stops at the governor’s office in terms of manning the project to make sure the budget is done on time. That didn’t happen.” He concluded, “As a result of it not happening, we are incurring $25 million a day.”
All in all, the budget fiasco in Sacramento is taking a toll on the daily lives of all Californians and the Black community is suffering major hardships every day the impasse continues.