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Should Progressives Challenge Lawmakers To Vote Against This Budget?

by: David Dayen

Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 12:50:35 PM PDT

What I'm hearing from grassroots progressives in this state is basically unadulterated anger at the craptacular budget deal passed.  If they're not out in the streets they're calling representatives and finding every opportunity to make themselves known.  Karen Bass posted a statement on her Facebook page about the budget deal and it has been hammered by critics.  Some negative comments have been deleted.  I'm getting practically an email a minute from some progressive group or another talking about stopping this budget.

I think what we have here is, to analogize, a union shop steward bargaining without the support of its rank and file.  Whether that will matter to the legislators who vote on this on Thursday is unclear.  But if you took the pulse of the activist community, they would argue for one of three things:

(1) send the leadership back to the negotiating table with the mandate that this deal isn't good enough.
(2) send new leadership back to enforce that message, fire Steinberg and Bass
(3) only agree to a deal if Republicans ensure every one of their members will vote for it, so they can own the policy

I don't want to really speculate on what will happen.  But I can pretty confidently say that the movement which has become engaged over this budget fight will not be likely to shut up if the Democratic rank-and-file goes along willingly with the leadership and votes this budget into law.  They will want to fight and it will probably be those same rank-and-file lawmakers that bear the brunt of it, perhaps even with primary challenges.

As I've said repeatedly, the current structure of government in the state is designed to produce bad outcomes.  We can get mad about it, we can mourn the real suffering this will extend throughout the poor and middle class, or we can organize.  And the desired end state, IMO, is not just to get a marginally better near-term budget, with maybe an extra billion for an oil severance tax here, or a reduction of borrowing to local governments there, but to get a far better structure inside of which to run government responsibly.  I don't think that can possibly end with a fight on this budget, though it may begin with it.  Because at some point, progressives do need to reject being taken for granted.

Anyway, thought I'd open it for discussion.

...here's Dave Johnson arguing for option #3, which I think is among the best practices.  We have this assumption that any deal must be voted on by all Democrats, with just enough Republicans for passage slinking along.  That's not etched in stone.

In addition, let me remind everyone that this budget does NOT require a 2/3 vote.  The budget has already been passed; revising it requires only a majority.  However, that means it would take effect after 90 days, and only a 2/3 vote will allow it to take effect immediately.  Obviously, delaying by 90 days reduces the savings of the deal.  But we're probably coming back to this soon enough anyway.  And without all Republicans in support, I think you have to allow some Democrats to vote their conscience.  

(In addition, budgets are voted on in various multi-bill packages, so any one vote could go down as well.  That could be a consideration.)

David Dayen :: Should Progressives Challenge Lawmakers To Vote Against This Budget?
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Options 1 and 3 make sense (8.00 / 3)
The Courage Campaign is about to launch an action that would fall broadly under Option 1 - asking people to contact legislators to reject this deal and instead insist that an oil severance tax be included to offset the cuts to health care and the disabled.

I think the progressive movement in this state is sufficiently broad and diverse that a range of strategies is welcome. My own view is that we need to set down a marker, a sign that there are budget deals we will not support. Especially given the likelihood that there will be future budget battles before July 2010.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

serverance tax isn't good enough (0.00 / 0)
This same "deal" with a $1 billion oil severance tax would still be in need of rejection. We need to set the marker of a budget we need.  

Twitter: @BobBrigham

[ Parent ]
so, how much more is the state going to screw me? (0.00 / 0)
I'm on SSI and the state suppliments the federal money.  I have already been cut $57 per month or $684 per year.  So, how much more is the state going to screw me?

They can't have the poor millionaires pay more in taxes but they can take money from those at the bottom.

Yeah, screw me as always.

your COLA has gone bye-bye (2.00 / 1)
I think permanently.

[ Parent ]
So, that means (0.00 / 0)
another $176 per month.  That's more than screwed and no one gives a damn.

[ Parent ]
Borrowing 2 billion under prop A requires 2/3 (8.00 / 2)
At least as I recall the measure, it takes a 2/3 vote to trigger prop A borrowing.

And it shouldn't get a single Democratic vote until every Republican has voted yes. Let the Republicans own this cut to their local governments, and until they do, no deal on anything. Otherwise they'll just blame it on Democrats, and say that they wanted to eliminate welfare, but the Democrats voted to cut police and fire.

Likewise, selling the Orange County Fairgrounds should be the first item voted on, and until every Orange County Republican has voted yes, not a single other bill should receive a single Democratic vote.

Then let's take up piratizing the State Pension Fund with hearings on the effects on small business, who will pay a new tax that Republicans won't admit to, while large multi-national corporations gloat over their multi-billion dollar tax cut.

Then one by one, bill by bill, when every Republican has voted yes, Democrats should be free to vote.

Let me add that selling the Orange County Fairgrounds is a pretty stupid idea, but it's only equitable that the folks like Mimi Walters and Tom Harman who published the Republican Roadmap to Recovery, with its asset sales provision, should be leading this with a sale of an important public asset in Orange County.

New drilling off Ventura. Make it conditional on extending the same deal off the coast of Tom Harman's and Mimi Walter's districts.

That's off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's plenty of additional strategies that can be refined. If the Republican leaders don't have every vote, let them go back to the table until they can come up with revenue increases that

OC Progressive is Gus Ayer, former Fountain Valley Council member.  

Correction Prop 1a, not Prop A (n/t) (4.00 / 1)

OC Progressive is Gus Ayer, former Fountain Valley Council member.  

[ Parent ]
nd it shouldn't get a single Democratic vote until every Republican has voted yes??? (4.00 / 1)
Just don't vote for it at all.  

Let the Republicans vote for it and it fail.  

Come back and say the people don't support this.  Make Arnold sign a real budget.  

[ Parent ]
And let local government have their say (3.50 / 2)
The recommended a 5 cent increase in the gas tax instead of illegally robbing gas tax from local government. Let's see that local option voted on before they vote on the gas tax raid, and let's see every Republican vote.

OC Progressive is Gus Ayer, former Fountain Valley Council member.  

I would go with 3 (4.50 / 2)
And focus all of our political efforts on a 2010 ballot measure that raises revenues and restores funding. That, along with 2/3 reform and higher-ed excise, are the brass ring right now.

If Dems don't support the budget... (3.00 / 1)
  They should be ready to call for a constitutional convention.  This can be passed by both houses with 2/3rds
and the governor can call a special.  The advantage of this is that the Reps will never go along (because the convention will be by majority vote, anathema to them).  But it
puts the ball in their court.  It is amazing that the LA Times will run editorial saying the Dems are being irresponsible because Schwartz says he won't raise taxes--well, let them write Schwartz is being irresponsible because the Dem's won't destroy the safety net.

of course this should be rejected by Dems (2.00 / 1)
And we aren't going to have an adequate budget until the majority has adequate leadership.

Twitter: @BobBrigham

Definitely 3, maybe 1 as well (4.50 / 2)
This is a Republican budget.  Let it be a Republican budget.  Give every one of those bastards a veto over it.  If any of them exercise that veto, make Arnold come back and do what he must to win over more Democratic votes.  Imposing an oil severance tax or else no drilling would be the first thing I'd seek.  (It's not the most important substantively, but symbolically it undoes the eye gouge in this budget.)

If this gets one more Assembly vote than 54, or one more Senate vote than 27, someone is brain dead.  My bottom line is that if the regular party wants to pass it, it had better be under those conditions.  If they don't want to pass it, I'll support their choice.  And of course I like OC Progressive's suggestions above, though I'll miss public ownership of the Fairgrounds.

I'm surprised to see no support so far for #2.  How mad are we really?

Clearly, some heads need to roll (5.00 / 2)
Steinberg certainly, and Bass likely as well.

There's a need here to show that there is a limit to what a Democrat can agree to and still expect to survive in public life.  One of these two need to take a hit for the cause.

[ Parent ]
If so, I'd do it after this is settled (0.00 / 0)
These are the horses we rode in on.  A switch now would only be disruptive, unless it emanated organically from the relevant caucus.  For now, that's a sideshow.

[ Parent ]
Do you trust these people to negotiate for us? (0.00 / 0)
I don't.

The GOP caucus kicked out their previous team back in January IIRC, and in retrospect, it looks like this was a very smart move.

Bass is not up to the job, and Steinberg mostly wants to pose for pictures with the celebrity governor.  By pushing out one or both of them, it becomes clear that no Democrat can make these sorts of deals and survive politically.

As to this:

A switch now would only be disruptive

well, duh.  That's exactly the point.

[ Parent ]
Maybe (0.00 / 0)
I could also see it preventing any agreement and being pinned as the reason for failure.  I'm pretty reconciled to a bad budget at this point; I do want it clearly to be a Republican one.

[ Parent ]
progressive tax---NOT (3.00 / 1)
CA tax rates show that someone earning 48k pays the same tax rate as someone make 1 million.

If your income range is between $47,056 and $1,000,000, your tax rate on every dollar of income earned is 9.3%.
If your income range is $1,000,001 and over, your tax rate on every dollar of income earned is 10.3%.

Such an outrage (5.00 / 1)
No Democrat should vote for a budget that does not (1) include an oil severance tax and (2) repeals the tax breaks that big business got in 2/09 and 9/08.  The rest of the Democrats must rebel against their weak-kneed leadership.

I'm as upset about cuts to education, health care and such as anyone.  My great aunt could not have lived by herself until her death at 87 without a home health care worker.  But I'd like to focus on the state parks.  The parks won't get $ from the General Fund any more, and we don't yet know the new source(s).  But the parks are taking an $8 million, or 12%, cut.  If 12% of the parks close, that's over 30 parks.  That's like giving someone a hammer and telling him to smash 30 exhibits in a museum.

Will the parks be closed and sold off?  Or closed and mothballed (and vandalized and overrun with trash and drugs) until adults are again in charge in Sacramento?  And what happens to land held by groups like the Sempervirens Fund, which have been unable to transfer acquired properties to the state parks ever since Arnold took over and decreed that they would not expand further?

If the state can save $8 million by the feds adding Angel Island State Park to the GGNRA and the state redwood parks up north to Redwood National Park, or other similar transfers, then I'd be OK with that.  But otherwise I can't accept any changes to the state parks, especially for so little return.  California added state parks during the Great Depression, but apparently the system will not just cease to grow but actually shrink if Arnold and the Republicans get their way.

Where's the recall -or- constitutional convention? (5.00 / 1)
Mr. Dayen:

I am heartened to hear the populace responding with anger and revulsion at this brutish "agreement".  Should it gain passage, it will signal the death knell of educational, environmental, and technological excellence for which this state has been renowned.  Make no mistake, this churlish basket of gimmicks will guarantee a much longer and much deeper recession.  

Of the options you proposed, I would heartily advocate for #'s 1 & 2, as Steinberg and Bass have abdicated.

And for those who think budget-cutting is the fiscal cure-all, reflect upon the trends contained in these charts:



Can John Burton be appointed to take over as lead negotiator for the Democrats?

Expanding the negotiations is a good idea (4.00 / 1)
Bass and Steinberg lack the skills and the stature to pull this off.  Burton is a good choice.

[ Parent ]
All three ideas are good (5.00 / 1)
 although if these draconian cuts are made, having all the Republicans vote for them won't make the cuts any more palatable, and the Republican voters won't care if the cuts are made or not.

I think firing Steinberg and Bass is the best idea.  Didn't the Republicans fire one of their two legislative leaders during the last budget crisis in February?  I don't know of anything else that would send a sronger message.

Firing Bass and Steinberg would send a clear message (5.00 / 5)
I think that all 3 of David's ideas are excellent.  We need these people to get back to the table, and yeah, we need to force the GOP to own the cuts.

But going back to the table only works if it's clear that the Democratic Party reps will get eaten alive if they cave.  The best way to show this kind of resolve is to take the current reps, and frankly, eat them alive now.

If one or both of the two representatives in the negotiations lose their jobs over the current deal, it will do a major favor to whoever replaces them.  I don't give a damn about the careers or reputations of either Bass or Steinberg; they have proven themselves to be completely expendable.  So let's expend with them.

I've set up an Action Diary for Whipping this vote (0.00 / 0)
I've set up a simple diary to facilitate whipping votes on the budget vote.  If you're calling your senator or assembly person, stop by and tell us what they said.

Do people understand the Republican endgame here? (0.00 / 0)
1) Decimate government services so they cannot function effectively.  Think of hours of waiting at an understaffed DMV.....

2) Get people disillusioned and bitter about the lack of government service, and wondering what they pay their taxes for.

3) Go after the "fat cat" public employees and their unions, who are major contributors to Democratic campaigns.

I know the politicians are too incompetent to see how they are being set up, but I hope everyone else understands how this is meant to play out.  

Expecting that people will be allowed to clamor for a return to investment in government services is a pipe dream.  For one thing, that is the not the story that will be covered by the corporate-owned media.....

Should We Challenge Them? (0.00 / 0)
We definitely should challenge them!

We should make it clear that unless the oil severance tax is included and the corporate breaks of last February are rescinded -- with the proceeds used to eliminate some of the cuts -- then the budget should be thrown out.

No Democrat should vote for this budget.  Steinberg and Bass failed.  If they are unable to cut a better deal, get someone else. If there is no one else, let Arnie and the GOP come up with a budget and turn it down.  Then let them come up with another, and turn it down.  And another and another until there is a budget that is worthy of Democratic support.

Looks like CNA finally woke up (0.00 / 0)
They sent this out to their email alert list:

From: website@calnurses.org [mailto:website@calnurses.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 5:06 PM
Subject: Tell Our Legislators: Don't balance the budget at the expense of the neediest Californians!

Tell Our Legislators:
Don't Balance the Budget at the
Expense of the Neediest Californians!

Governor Schwarzenegger claims a state budget deal is in place.  However, the priorities of this budget are, again, all wrong - with severe reductions in vital areas like healthcare and social services.

This latest budget again puts the greatest burden on the most vulnerable Californians who don't have the political clout of the big corporate interests who have again escaped paying their fair share.

The governor has also proposed the privatization of and contracting out of 25,000 county eligibility worker jobs covering CalWORKs, Medi-Cal, and food stamps programs.

It is critical that the Legislature hears opposition to these cuts from CNA members.

Here are some of the most draconian budget cuts the governor has proposed:

   * $124 million cut from the Healthy Families program - which provides health, dental, and vision services to children with family incomes too high to qualify for the Medi-Cal program. Healthy Families will now have a waiting list.
   * $500 million cut from the CalWorks program - provides temporary financial assistance and employment-focused services to families with minor children who have income and property below state maximum limits for their family size.  Assistance is already limited to lifetime maximum of 60 months.
   * $650 million cut from education. In the last several years, education has already sustained massive budget cuts.
   * The elimination of 25,000 quality union jobs by privatizing and contracting out county eligibility workers covering CalWORKs, Medi-Cal, and food stamps programs.

According to all reports the budget will be voted on within 48 hours. Do not delay - the Legislature must hear from CNA members!

How you can help


Go to http://www.assembly.ca.gov/def... on the left side, click on the tab that says "find my district" - enter your zip code.  Once your assemblymember and senator is shown please email or call your elected officials.


Tell your assemblymember and Senator that you oppose the all-cuts budget that will result in $15.6 billion in cuts and $2 billion in borrowing from local governments. These cuts will hurt our patients, the children, and families of California.  All of these services must stay in place.  The Legislature must first look at rolling back corporate tax breaks and loopholes to balance the state's budget.

Make sure to include your name, that you are an RN, and a member of CNA.  Please copy dfurman@calnurses.org on your email or call Deanna Furman at 916-491-3217 and let her know how your phone call was received.

Thank you for your help in defending critical services in California and continuing to advocate for our patients.

California Nurses Association
National Nurses Organizing Committee
2000 Franklin Street
Oakland, CA 94612

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for California Nurses Association.  

Will the nurses please kick Arnold's *** again? (0.00 / 0)
They did it back in 2005.  Could they please do it again?

[ Parent ]
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