Tuesday, June 28, 2011

She Knows There's No Success Like Failure And That Failure's No Success At All

So it appears that we will have a budget either today or tomorrow.  The Governor has given up his search for phantom Republican support and has agreed to sign a slightly modified version of the budget that the Democrats in the Legislature passed a few weeks ago.  It is not a pretty picture.

  • The new budget agreement is built upon the cuts that were already imposed in March.  For Higher Ed this fact means $500 Million in cuts for UC and CSU each as well $400 Million cut for the Community College System.  The budget does nothing that I can see to restore funding for health care for the poor and elderly, continues to squeeze the K-12 system, significantly cuts the Calworks program, and accepts the cuts to the state's Court systems.
  • Based on additional revenues that have come to the state so far this year, the budget assumes a very optimistic revenue scenario for the rest of the year.  But if the revenue estimates prove unrealistic then there are triggers for additional cuts.  These include an additional $100 Million in cuts for both UC and CSU, the possibility of further cuts to K-12 and a further shortening of the school year.  
  • As a result, it is more than conceivable then that both UC and CSU will end up with $750 Million dollars in cuts by the end of the fiscal year.   
  • Brown and the Democrats are talking about putting revenue initiatives on the ballot in November of 2012.  The Republicans are sure to counter with attacks on pensions and calls for a strict spending cap.  It will be a very difficult election battle and one that everyone needs to attend to.
  • Indeed, perhaps the only success in this failure is that the Republicans were so zealous in their refusal to consider having an election on Brown's tax extensions (a vote there was no guarantee Brown would carry this fall) that Brown did not give them their demands on pensions and spending caps.  The latter in particular would have ensured the decay of governmental services in the state and would have, almost inevitably destroyed what remains of public K-12 education. 
Brown has effectively wasted the first 6 months of his second governorship.  Rather than taking the opportunity to challenge the status quo and inequalities of California's political economy he helped entrench them even more.  The only success here is that the Republicans failed to impose their vision on long-term governmental budgeting.  But that isn't much to claim.

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