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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Republicans Refusing To... Cut?

In the upside-down world of the California budget mess, the Senate President Pro Tem is now criticizing Republicans for their refusal to vote for cuts.

Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg wants to put Republicans on record today on two political questions: whether they can accept $11.4 billion in cuts that Democrats are proposing, and whether they will vote on $2 billion in new taxes.

On taxes, Steinberg conceded he is unlikely to win a single Republican vote when the Senate takes up the Democrats' $23.3 billion deficit reduction plan. But that, he said, shouldn't stop them from supporting his package of cuts, which will be voted on separately.

"If they're going to stand on the argument that cuts are not deep enough and thereby not vote for $11 billion in cuts, then we have some issues," Steinberg said at a news briefing next to his Capitol office. "It's interesting. I'm getting a sense that Republicans are getting shy about voting for cuts. That would be an odd headline: Democrats urging Republicans to vote for cuts."

Actually, it's not an odd headline. It's the inevitable consequence of a broken political system where you need a simple majority to make cuts and a 2/3 majority to raise taxes. Period.

In this case, Steinberg can pass the whole budget, save $2 billion in oil and cigarette taxes, by majority vote, because this is not a budget enactment, but a revision. If he doesn't muster 2/3 for the cuts, however, the revision will be delayed 90 days, reducing the effectiveness of the cuts by roughly 1/4, and forcing additional solutions to fill the deficit later. Even when mostly cuts are on the table, Republicans are using the leverage of undemocratic supermajorities to force more cuts.

Here's Zed Hollingsworth playing dumb that all he wants is a comprehensive solution.

"We're willing to vote for the cuts that provide for a complete solution," said Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula. "We're not willing to vote for a partial solution that has us coming back in the spring having to find more revenues when another calamity hits. We're not interested in political gamesmanship."

No, the Yacht Party would NEVER be interested in political gamesmanship, perish the thought. They'd never want to try to send the state into bankruptcy to make a political point or anything. By the way, Zed, news flash: you'll be back in the spring. The projections from the Legislative Analyst have consistently fallen short of reality, and no matter how big a budget reserve gets baked into this new budget, you can bet dollars to donuts it won't be enough, especially considering the potentially accelerated Depression that additional cuts to the social services net will force. The Anderson Forecast estimates 64,000 government jobs lost from this round of budget cuts. Even in Dan Walters' world, that's a significant chunk.

My problem with the Democrats on this is mainly their insistence on working within a broken system. They miss every opportunity to put the failed governmental structure on trial. Something as absurd as Republicans voting against program cuts - to ensure MORE program cuts - defies belief without an explanation of how it's a symbol for a bad process that must be fixed. The goal of this budget, which was never going to be pretty regardless of the May 19 election, should have been to heighten that reality.

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