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

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Exclusive: Mark DeSaulnier Voting No on "Most" Of The Budget

I interviewed Sen. Mark DeSaulnier just a few minutes ago for a series on CA-10 candidates. But I took the opportunity to ask him about the budget deal. Un unusually blunt and what I would characterize as irate language, DeSaulnier blasted the budget and the process that created it. "It's all awful," he said. "On a majority-vote level, with votes that require a majority vote, California still leads the nation. But on a fiscal level, we're living in the Dark Ages. The system is completely dysfunctional and maybe the only good thing is that people will finally see the kind of change we need. Sadly, too many people are still in denial about that change. But we can't go on like this. It's just a mess."

DeSaulnier thinks that the economy is unlikely to change dramatically to bail out this budget, and it will take a long time for General Fund revenues to get to a point to pay off the money borrowed from education. And so we'll remain in this dark place for some time.

The Senator is carrying a bill in the legislature to put together a Constitutional convention, and he is "more convinced than ever" about the need for it. He believes that, after the budget is put the bed, there is an urgent need, recognized by the leadership, to turn completely to reform. Sen. Steinberg has said to him that the message will be nothing but change, change, change. And the caucus wants to work, whether through a revision commission or reforms that could be put together with majority support, to do a "Constitutional convention in the building." Unfortunately, DeSaulnier said, everyone on both sides of the aisle immediately goes to the worst-case scenario of a convention, thinking that their gains and protections will be lost. But that's no excuse. DeSaulnier hoped he could get with Republican leaders like Sam Blakeslee to find common ground on a few reform issues, but he's not sanguine about those choices. "They're individually good people, but put them together and they're a cult, not a party. Milton Friedman's dead, move on."

When I asked what he would vote for on Thursday, he said "I will probably vote against most of it." DeSaulnier singled out two pieces that could not get his support: the offshore drilling in Tranquillon Ridge, and the raid on local governments. On the drilling, he doesn't understand why Democrats would approve such a proposal for a paltry $100 million dollars in this budget year. "I don't know why the Governor would do that. Whatever environmental record he claims to have will go down the tubes. I never thought he was particularly green to begin with, he tried to slow-walk AB32 and all sorts of environmental initiatives. He's the worst Governor in state history, just like George W. Bush was the worst President in history.

On the local government raid, DeSaulnier said that as someone who came from local government, he could not see clear to essentially bankrupt them. Those takings don't take place until December, according to him, so he would rather get the LAO involved, score the kinds of tax credits at the local level, things like enterprise zones that don't work and other giveaways to corporate interests, and suspend them to make local government whole. I think it's an interesting strategy, though I don't know if it could succeed. Tying it to local government needs is smart.

And by the way, the crazy redevelopment money scheme, to borrow against those future funds and securitize 10% of property taxes for 10-20 years? DeSaulnier called that "insane" and "illegal," and just a shadow play by Republicans "so they can go back to San Diego and Riverside and say they tried to save their local money and failed."

DeSaulnier has an election coming up, and thus an incentive to take a bold stand. But this is pretty darn bold. And if there are enough Democrats to go along with him, Republicans may indeed be forced to own this budget.

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