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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Deeply Unpopular Legislature Stumps For Their Unpopular Budget

The latest poll numbers for the Governor and the legislature are pitiful, although clearly the electorate has hit Schwarzenegger more over the recent budget crisis.

Overall, just 33% of California adults give Schwarzenegger a positive job rating, barely above the record low of 32% that he hit in 2005 after pushing a package of failed ballot measures in a special election. As recently as January, Schwarzenegger's favorable job rating was at 40%.

Faring worse is the state Legislature: Its 21% approval rating matches the record low it set in several previous polls.

There are a number of other questions in the poll regarding the right to choose and birth control, which you can see here (Short version: Californians still support the right to choose, though parental notification gets narrow support. I would imagine that how the question is asked accounts for that, although this will probably give hope to the forces that have lost parental notification on the ballot three times in a row to try yet again).

What I want to focus on for the moment is those appalling numbers for our political leaders. Given that, as well as the public tendency to vote down ballot initiatives, you'd think the last thing they'd want to do is put the public faces of lawmakers on the budget items in the May 19 special election. You'd be wrong.

Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and ex-Senate leader Dave Cogdill will join hands today for the first campaign event before the upcoming budget special election.

The trio -- alongside other advocates for the package -- will host a press conference this afternoon at a Sacramento-area child development center.

Now, maybe Darrell Steinberg has some grand design where the limits in the spending cap part of the package can be overcome. Or maybe he's perfectly content with ratcheting down spending and making it impossible to revive it no matter what the economic situation. Whatever the reason, it seems like terrible strategy as well as bad policy.

On the flip side, SEIU editorializes against the spending cap in Capitol Weekly:

One of the most troubling aspects of the budget deal to us is the budget cap, which promises to make the cuts permanent by making it virtually impossible to restore them in better times. For SEIU members that translates into year after year of higher caseloads for social workers who help children endangered by neglect or abuse; ongoing cuts to healthcare for families struggling with unemployment or low-wage work; a future of shrinking support for families who have children with autism or cerebral palsy; ongoing cuts to hundreds of state services from parks to oversight of hospitals and nursing homes, and ongoing cuts to home care, higher education, K-12 schools, and other vital public services.

We know that we are not alone in our concerns. In fact, Californians do not support the inevitable result of a budget cap - each of these cuts is deeply unpopular; yet legislators have already voted for the cap without a single hearing on the cap’s effects, without explaining its effects to their constituents, and without asking for detailed analysis from the Controller, the Treasurer, or independent outside experts.

This is not the way such a serious measure should have been considered or passed. It reflects poorly on the Legislature as a deliberative and transparent body.

With the Governor trying to get in on the Constitutional convention, and offering a vision of reform that trades majority vote for the spending cap, essentially one horrible outcome for another, it's beyond clear that, if the spending cap passes, it will be locked in for a very long time no matter what other reforms are undertaken, and with a baseline spending level "established during one of the, if not the, worst budget crisis in the state’s history," as the author writes. This would cripple the state in a fundamental way.

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