| Legislature reconvenes with some big questions
by Brian Leubitz
I've been traveling for a while, but, perhaps my timing was perfect. The 2013 legislative session just reconvened last week, and the issues are still being sorted out. A few obvious pieces of legislation, such as closing the "impersonating a boyfriend" rape loophole. Gun control legislation will also be a hot topic, with some sound legislation proposed (such as SB 47, but, of course, the NRA remains dedicated to drifting from their traditional stance to crazy libertarianism.
But, as per usual, the biggest fight remains with the budget. The Governor's budgeting forecast shows a stabilization and an elimination of the structural deficit. So, hooray for that I suppose. However, under Prop 98, the education system is still owed billions, which he is looking to repay, plus billions of dollars remain on the state's credit cards in the form of outstanding bond debt. There is no reason whatsoever to rush to repay any bonds, but the picture is neither as dire as some would paint it, nor as rosy as others would have you believe.
The fact remains that we have slashed social services below functioning levels. And the Governor has said that he has no plans to restore the funding to levels that could actually provide the intended services:
Brown said he is unwilling to restore funding for social service programs that have been cut during the recession. "That kind of yo-yo political economy is not good," he said. "I want to advance the progressive agenda, but consistent with the amount of money the people made available."
The spending plan Brown released this morning calls for small increases to education funding in a $97.7 billion general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 but generally holds the line elsewhere.(SacBee)
I get the whole "let's not go back into debt" thing. It makes perfect sense, but there must be a balance between growth and deficit reduction. As in the rest of the nation, and world, really, job growth is still slow. (Hey, don't I know it! Anybody need a lawyer/policy analyst/political consultant?)
We need to ensure that the state government doesn't continue to be one of the 50 Little Hoovers, especially when federal stimulus has pretty much dried up. State government still exists to provide services to its citizens, and a functioning state government, a growing economy must both be balanced against budget stabilization.