As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Democats Ceding Ground On The Budget

L.A. teachers walked out of their classrooms for one hour yesterday to protest proposed education cuts in the budget. In West LA they stopped traffic. Speaker Bass, at LA Trade Technical College for a ceremonial swearing-in event, offered support to the teachers.

State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said the demonstrators -- who included teachers in red T-shirts, parents with young children and students -- were heard by the governor and state lawmakers wrestling with a $17-billion budget shortfall. She said Democrats in the Assembly and Senate will not accept any budget that is balanced through cuts only.

"I absolutely support the action taken by the teachers, and if it wasn't for the swearing-in activities, I would have walked on the picket line right along with them," said Bass at her ceremonial inauguration as Assembly speaker at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. "What the teachers did today was they sounded the alarm for the people of Los Angeles to understand how serious this crisis is."

Of course, it would be nicer if this show of support translated into a revenue solution more robust than picking up the Governor's ridiculous lottery borrowing idea and running with it.

Democratic lawmakers made an opening pitch Thursday for closing the state's $15.2 billion deficit, using lottery borrowing as well as unspecified proposals to close tax loopholes [...]

Assembly Democrats have supported the governor's plan to borrow from the lottery but rejected his proposal to put the money into a so-called "rainy day" account. Instead, they would like to use the money to pay down debt.

Democratic leaders in both houses proposed giving schools more than the governor recommended. They include cost-of-living increases for teachers.

I think the move here for Bass is to get the necessary short-term revenue by whatever means necessary to balance the budget this year, and then put her taxation task force in motion thereafter and make the real fight through the next two years of her leadership. But that's unfortunately a shortsighted proposal. Borrowing from the lottery means greater deficits in the future, and Californians understand this and have rejected the idea. Every year that we fail to address the revenue side is a year where we have to borrow more and more to get the budget balanced, meaning that we'll need more revenue when we finally get around to structural change. And Bass doesn't seem particularly wedded to any tax loophole closures because she didn't specify any.

You could see this coming when Fabian Nuñez gave his blessing to the lottery proposal in an editorial a couple weeks ago. Democrats should be headed into this debate strongly, with the backing of the people of the state and the spectre of a 2/3 majority cutting Republicans completely out of the equation. But they've already gone more than halfway before the negotiation has even started.

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