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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Should CA Progressives Challenge Members To Vote Against The Budget?

What I'm hearing from grassroots progressives in this state is basically unadulterated anger at the craptacular budget deal passed. If they're not out in the streets they're calling representatives and finding every opportunity to make themselves known. Karen Bass posted a statement on her Facebook page about the budget deal and it has been hammered by critics. Some negative comments have been deleted. I'm getting practically an email a minute from some progressive group or another talking about stopping this budget.

I think what we have here is, to analogize, a union shop steward bargaining without the support of its rank and file. Whether that will matter to the legislators who vote on this on Thursday is unclear. But if you took the pulse of the activist community, they would argue for one of three things:

(1) send the leadership back to the negotiating table with the mandate that this deal isn't good enough.
(2) send new leadership back to enforce that message, fire Steinberg and Bass
(3) only agree to a deal if Republicans ensure every one of their members will vote for it, so they can own the policy

I don't want to really speculate on what will happen. But I can pretty confidently say that the movement which has become engaged over this budget fight will not be likely to shut up if the Democratic rank-and-file goes along willingly with the leadership and votes this budget into law. They will want to fight and it will probably be those same rank-and-file lawmakers that bear the brunt of it, perhaps even with primary challenges.

As I've said repeatedly, the current structure of government in the state is designed to produce bad outcomes. We can get mad about it, we can mourn the real suffering this will extend throughout the poor and middle class, or we can organize. And the desired end state, IMO, is not just to get a marginally better near-term budget, with maybe an extra billion for an oil severance tax here, or a reduction of borrowing to local governments there, but to get a far better structure inside of which to run government responsibly. I don't think that can possibly end with a fight on this budget, though it may begin with it. Because at some point, progressives do need to reject being taken for granted.

Anyway, thought I'd open it for discussion.'s Dave Johnson arguing for option #3, which I think is among the best practices. We have this assumption that any deal must be voted on by all Democrats, with just enough Republicans for passage slinking along. That's not etched in stone.

In addition, let me remind everyone that this budget does NOT require a 2/3 vote. The budget has already been passed; revising it requires only a majority. However, that means it would take effect after 90 days, and only a 2/3 vote will allow it to take effect immediately. Obviously, delaying by 90 days reduces the savings of the deal. But we're probably coming back to this soon enough anyway. And without all Republicans in support, I think you have to allow some Democrats to vote their conscience.

(In addition, budgets are voted on in various multi-bill packages, so any one vote could go down as well. That could be a consideration.)

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