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Arnold Plays The Gingrich Role, Threatens Government Shutdown

by: David Dayen

Wed Jun 17, 2009 at 15:33:21 PM PDT

UPDATE by Brian: I've attached a  summary of the Budget Committee's bill over the flip.  

The plot thickens.  The Governor today threatened to veto the work of the bipartisan Budget Conference Committee and reject any bill that, essentially, doesn't hew to his desire to destroy the social safety net of the state.  The Democratic leadership countered that they'll pass the bill anyway.

Democratic legislative leaders vowed today that the Legislature will pass a "share the pain" budget-balancing plan early next week - with or without tax increases -- that will close the state's spending deficit without completely shredding California's social services safety net.

The vows by Senate President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, came about an hour after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he wouldn't sign a plan that was balanced with tax increases.

The rhetorical staking out of ground by the key figures in the current version of the state's ongoing fiscal melodrama came a day after the Legislature's joint budget conference committee, on a party-line vote, adopted a plan that included about $2 billion in new oil production and cigarette taxes to help bridge a $24 billion budget gap.

Let's take a brief look at what else the conference committee has done.  They resisted some of the worst health care cuts, including the total elimination of Healthy Families (the SCHIP program).  They reduced education spending significantly in both K-12 and higher ed.  They reduced corrections spending by a fairly large amount.  Despite the fact that state parks pay for themselves, Democrats agreed to cut state participation in park funding, replacing it with additional fees on park admissions.  They agreed to increasing withholding by 10%, which amounts to an interest-free loans from citizens to the state.  According to Karen Bass, they agreed to 45% of the Governor's proposals in full, and 93% in part.

So the idea that Democrats are not cutting spending is simply unreasonable and wrong.  At the same time, they rejected additional cuts to state worker salaries.  They rejected the end of Cal Works or Cal Grants or In-Home Support Services.  And some of the Governor's proposals, like borrowing from local governments, were rejected unanimously.

I don't even much like what the Democrats came up with.  But they did not agree to completely wipe out the social safety net, calling for moderate increases in revenue on constituencies who have been getting away with murder, pretty much literally, for decades, to pay for the externalities in health care costs that they impose on the public.  As Noreen Evans explains:

Californians expect their schools to be good, a safety net to be available to the needy, a college education to be affordable for working families, their air and water to be clean, and their parks to be open and kept up. In order to meet their expectations, we must to pursue new revenues. Today, for the greater good, we approved two new tax proposals that won't impact most Californians.

Establishing a 9.9 percent tax on oil extracted from California would generate $830 million in FY 2009-2010 and $1.1 billion in future years. This precise proposal was part of the governor's budget proposals last year. Increasing the excise tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack generates $1 billion in FY 2009-2010.

Tax increases require a 2/3 vote. Absent the pursuit of new revenues, wider and deeper cuts will be required. Getting new revenues requires a mere 6 Republican votes: 2 in the Senate and 4 in the Assembly. It is undemocratic that the votes of 6 Republicans can veto the votes of 75 Democrats.

But Arnold wants to destroy the state of California like a good little neo-Hooverist, so he said no.

The Dem leadership appears to want to have this fight for the moment, so they ought to realize one thing: Arnold will ultimately be responsible - and reviled - in a government shutdown situation.  No question about it.  Not 1 in 10 Californians can even NAME a Democrat in the legislature.  If the ship sinks, Arnold will be perceived as the skipper.  And so, if and when Arnold vetoes the bill, the Democrats should send it back - with MORE tax fairness solutions, daring Arnold to prolong the agony.  That resets the battle and draws clear lines between those who want the richest companies in America to sacrifice along with ordinary Californians, and those who want to protect the rich completely.  Unfortunately, the Dems are tipping their hand that this will not be the case.

But Bass and Steinberg seemed to be reconciled to the likelihood that the tax hike proposals would fail next week. Steinberg said that if they did, the package they sent the governor would have a reserve $2 billion smaller than he had sought.

We have a couple days to change this dynamic.  The progressive movement around the budget has stiffened spines a bit so far.  Time to make the calls and emails.

This is funny:

Schwarzenegger added that he wants a budget plan that will bridge the entire projected deficit of $24 billion, not a stopgap measure to "kick the can down the alley."

The plan must consist of permanent solutions to the state's fiscal problems, not one-time revenue that sparks ongoing spending commitments, Schwarzenegger said.

When Schwarzenegger was reminded that his own budget plan contains some one-time revenue proposals, such as acceleration of income tax payments, he smiled.

"Very good point," he said. "We don't want to add to the problem."

The cyborg is not running on all cylinders.  He has a single-minded purpose to kill the California dream and even these extremely moderate revenue enhancements.

David Dayen :: Arnold Plays The Gingrich Role, Threatens Government Shutdown

June 16 2009 Conference Report - Get more Business Documents  
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Call Cyberdyne Systems (0.00 / 0)
Looks like his damn chip needs replacing again.

Parking space tax/fee? (0.00 / 0)
I hope that you don't mind my promoting a diary, but I don't remember seeing public discussion of this proposal, which has been used elsewhere, and if it might help to solve the problem I hope that it will enter into the public debate.

schwartz (8.00 / 1)
Dayen notes:

Arnold will ultimately be responsible - and reviled - in a government shutdown situation.

Democrats need to make it very clear--unless Schwartz signs a majority rule fee increase, they will support his recall (it has already qualified--all the Dems have to do is collect signatures).  The winner of the recall will be the person who pledges to sign the majority-rule fee increase.  Schwartz's political handlers will look at this and tell him to sign so that he doesn't get expelled from office.  Also, in reality, what do the Democrats have to lose?  An all cuts budget is a radical right-wing budget, with no compromises with the Democrats.  Even if Schwartz were to survive the recall (unlikely to the extreme), what more can he do to the state?

Strategy for a recall? (0.00 / 0)
Since we've been down this road before, it's worth asking up front why we want to do it, and who would likely end up governor via the recall process.

I'm open to the idea.  But I'd want to know:
1. Is there a clear "case for reform" we'd be making during a recall campaign, including (1) a set of constitutional changes that the recall movement supports and (2) a clear story about what exactly Arnold is doing wrong that we intend to fix.
2. Is there some reform candidate that we would be supporting, and who do we expect the GOP to be putting in as their top candidate.
3. Is this a real grassroots thing, or is this the Democratic Party version of what Rove and the rest of the GOP pulled off when they took down Gray Davis.

Arnold deserves to go down.  But I'm not convinced that a recall campaign is going to lead to anything other than One More Damn Special Election.

What's a real progressive case for using the recall process here?  

[ Parent ]
Reason for recall (0.00 / 0)
  The reason is the winning candidate would be the one who ran on the platform of signing the majority-rule fee swap/tax increase on rich/oil/corporations.  No matter what you think about this year's budget problems next year is likely to be worse.

[ Parent ]
Is there such a candidate? (0.00 / 0)
It's worth remembering that Rove and the Bush White House were deeply involved in bringing down Gray Davis, up to their slimy, scaly necks.  From the whole electricity shortage, their refusal to intervene when Davis and others begged them to do so, and ultimately, in recruiting Schwartzie to run, and preventing folks like Darryl Issa from getting in their preferred candidate's way.

It was a set up, intended to put California's presidential vote into play, I would guess.  It didn't work, but that we know in hindsight.

If we're going to try this, we ought to know what happens after we start collecting signatures.  If we can't use the recall process to push forward a progressive agenda, then there's no point in doing it, even if it's possible.

Right now, I'm having a hard time getting enthusiastic about any of the clowns fine gentlemen running for the Democratic Party nomination for governor.  If that bunch is the best we can do for the recall, I'd as soon concentrate on fixing the constitution and voting to whichever clown fine gentleman gets the nomination.

[ Parent ]
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