A Budget Is About Choices. What Do These Choices Say About Us?
No doubt, these are difficult economic times, and crafting a deal to close the budget gap that has emerged since February is no small order, particularly when California’s legislators are hamstrung by a two-thirds vote requirement for passing a budget and any tax increase.
Yet despite these constraints and our recession-drained coffers, crafting a budget agreement still comes down to values and choices. And the deal reached by legislative leaders and the Governor on July 20, which the CBP analyzed in a document released yesterday – no small task given the lack of any publicly available summary of the agreement – reveals some troubling priorities.
Policymakers proposed deep cuts to education, higher education, health coverage for children, and the safety net, even as they left untouched tax cuts for some of the biggest and most powerful corporations. These tax cuts, which I spoke about on Capital Public Radio’s Insight program yesterday, will cost the state upwards of $2.5 billion a year when fully implemented. What does $2.5 billion mean in terms of this budget deal? It’s more than the proposed 2008-09 cuts to public schools ($1.6 billion), more than the proposed cuts to health and human services programs (which exceed $2 billion), and almost as much as the cuts proposed to higher education ($3 billion.)
In short, when it came to choosing between benefits for the state’s largest and most powerful corporations, or education and healthcare for California’s children and youth, the corporations won.
This budget deal also points to another adage we have here at the CBP: Flawed processes lead to flawed results. In recent months, it has become more apparent than ever that California’s budget process is irrevocably broken. Californians need to end the two-thirds vote requirement for budget and tax increases, overhaul the initiative process, and bring our tax system into the 21st century, so that Californians can once and for all have budgets that truly reflect their priorities and values.
– Jean Ross