By Willie L. Pelote, Sr.
“When you have an unemployment rate as high as it is in this state, it should be a signal to people to look for jobs in other states with more jobs and a lower cost of living. . . We have had policies subsidizing poverty in this state for years, and we can’t keep doing that.”
This statement from California Republican State Assemblymember Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) pretty much sums up the Republican political philosophy in a nutshell.
That’s why alternative budget proposals like the one recently put out by the American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) warrant serious consideration.
In this budget plan, AFSCME has found $44 billion worth of recurring revenues that can be used to balance California’s 2009-2010 budget and all budgets annually thereafter.
This common sense budget plan is in line with polls showing a majority of California voters oppose cuts to public service programs like education and child care and favor cutting prison spending and raising specific taxes to balance the budget.
In fact, findings by David Binder Research show that there is broad support in California for new revenues (i.e, taxes). Specifically:
• 74% of California voters support increasing tobacco taxes on tobacco.
• 73% of California voters support an oil extraction tax on oil companies that every other oil producing state has.
• 63% of California voters support closing the tax loophole that allows corporations to avoid reassessment of newly purchased property.
• 63% of California support raising the state income tax for top earners (ten percent for individuals earning more than $272,000 a year & eleven percent for individuals earning more than $544,000 a year.
• 59% of California voters support prohibiting corporations from offsetting more than fifty percent of their taxes through tax credits.
These and similar proposals are contained in AFSCME’s alternative budget proposal.
The legislature and the governor would do well to listen to the will of the people.
The electorate recognizes that enacting budget cuts in conjunction with irresponsible tax giveaways undercuts our quality of life as well as California’s position as the world’s sixth largest economy.
Republicans will predictably try to block any attempts to create new revenue options by using the two-thirds majority budget rule to hold the state hostage once again. Their apparent goal is to transform the Golden State into a Third World country.
Fortunately, it seems that the people of California are now on to this tactic, and it will be Republicans who will be held to blame should legislators again fail to craft a balanced budget based on progressive taxation.
That’s assuming that Democrats, who are in the majority, develop the requisite backbone to stand firm this time around.
The disdain with which voters regard the state legislature is a reflection of our frustration with the state of our state. However, this disdain stems from two divergent sources and can be easily differentiated by any politican who is paying attention.
Republicans are disliked for their obstructionist approach toward revenue increases that routinely turns the annual budget process into a budget crisis.
Democrats are disliked, because they continuously cave in to Republican demands for deep cuts to social spending in place of no new taxes.
The state budget is a moral document, setting the tone and direction for social policy in the Golden State through the programmatic spending decisions that are given priority each year.
Progressives must take advantage of this new awareness on the part of the electorate by leveraging that disdain to effect some much needed reshuffling of the state’s budgetary priorities.
Willie L. Pelote, Sr. is an Assistant Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO.