The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that among the thousands of projects stopped by the budget roadblock in Sacramento are “a dozen projects to prevent erosion after last year’s wildfires along the Carmel and Big Sur watersheds …” We’re not sure which projects they’re referring to, but the bottom line is this: the state budget crisis is now creating real problems for all of us – and the situation is becoming more and more serious every day.
So why doesn’t the legislature get with it and pass a budget? Well, here’s the problem: The collapse of the economy, combined with years of refusing to enact an equitable and adequate tax structure, has left us facing an enormous deficit. A deficit so large that there simply isn’t any way to balance the budget through cuts in spending alone. Firing all state employees won’t save enough. Closing all prisons and setting all prisoners free won’t even save enough.
In the past we might have resolved the problem by borrowing money. But now, with credit frozen, that doesn’t appear to be possible (federal bailout money seems to be going into vaults and executive wallets, rather than loans). And can you blame people for not wanting to buy California bonds? Would you lend money to someone who took a pledge not to raise the money necessary to pay you back?
That’s exactly what our Republican legislators (including own Senators, Jeff Denham & Abel Maldonado) have done. They’ve pledged, promised and sworn to never, ever, under any circumstances, raise taxes. And that’s a problem. Because there is no longer any way for California to meet its obligations and provide critically needed services without raising revenue. The Republicans are well aware of this. They are even aware that their ascended perfect master, Ronald Reagan (when faced with a budget crisis as California Governor), presided over the largest tax increase in California history.
They know that Prop. 13 and the other giveaways to business interests they’ve promoted for so many years make today’s tax increases inevitable. But they can’t bring themselves to act because they fear, and quite reasonably so, that their party’s deliriously anti-tax base will crucify them. They know that sooner or later some Republicans are going to have to vote for some taxes. They just hope that if they hold out long enough maybe it won’t have to be them. Not a great model of public service, it’s true, but that’s the way it goes.
And now the Republicans have got a new problem. As real pain begins to be felt throughout the state from deteriorating roads, sewage spills, contaminated drinking water and so on (thousands of projects, including road projects, sewage plant repairs and water projects have already been halted), the whole Republican tax paradigm – the idea that tax money is something the government takes from you, the productive citizen, and gives to those lazy people who refuse to work – may be irreparably damaged.
Thanks to the Republican refusal to consider tax increases, people are beginning to realize just how essential the things their tax money pays for really are. We want Cal-Fire to protect our homes and lives, we understand that paying taxes to fix the roads is cheaper than replacing tires and axles ruined in pot holes, we like it when someone inspects the buildings we work in and the food we eat for safety, we want raw sewage kept out of our lakes, streams and ocean. Yeah, come to think of it, the health, safety, quality of life and, yes, even economic, benefits we get from living in a state of civilization DO outweigh the burden of paying taxes.
So please, call, email and write Senator Denham, Senator Maldonado (or your own Republican representative) and tell them to cut the crap and support the tax increases necessary for a balanced budget NOW.
The compromise is on the table, gentlemen. The Democrats have already agreed to far greater cuts than they should have – cuts in education and other areas that will hamstring California’s ability to rebuild its economy. But if that is the cost of getting your votes, then there it is. Will you do the right thing? Or will you plunge us into ever-greater chaos in the hope of saving your own political hide?
Call Senator Denham at (916) 651-4012 (Sacramento) or (831) 769-8040 (Salinas)
Call Senator Maldonado at (916) 651-4015 (Sacramento) or (831) 657-6315 (Monterey)
There are indications that Maldonado may be considering breaking ranks with the Republicans and doing the right thing. Please give him encouragement!