Budget “Reform” Lacks Vision
The League of Women Voters of California is disappointed that Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed revision to the 2008-2009 state budget fails to address the needs of Californians in the present crisis or to lay out a path to a sounder fiscal approach in the future. In addition, the basic premises of our government call for representative government and a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches, and the changes to the budget process proposed by the administration violate those premises.
We understand that painful cuts and some borrowing are likely to be needed this budget year even if new savings or revenues are agreed on, because those savings or revenues might not take effect soon enough to contribute to a balanced budget and avoid a cash flow problem this summer.
However, to simply say that we have no money and that Californians will have to live with budget restrictions in the future, no matter what the consequences are, is short-sighted. We have one of the largest economies in the world, but it can only continue to thrive if we put in the resources necessary to produce a healthier, better educated population and a sound infrastructure. We believe that Californians want a better future for themselves and their children, and that we can come together on a plan to get there.
The Governor says we must live within our means, but he himself cut back our revenue when he eliminated the Vehicle License Fee upon taking office and has since proposed nothing to take its place, even though that cut now represents about a $6 billion gap in our “means.” At the same time, the proposed budget would impose severe cuts on the poorest and most vulnerable, who do truly have to live within their means. We think California can do better than that.
In 2005 we opposed Proposition 76, which would have given a Governor more power to cut the budget and would have reduced funding for education, and it was soundly defeated by the voters. Now, the administration is attempting to force an even harsher proposal on the legislature by tying it into the proposed budget, even though no legislator has so far been willing to introduce it as a bill. The legislature would be better occupied reversing billions of dollars in tax cuts and tax loopholes it has enacted in recent years.
As the proposal has been described, it would give a Governor unprecedented power to override existing laws and regulations, whether the legislature agreed or not, in order to make whatever budget cuts he or she wanted when estimated expenditures exceed estimated revenues. It would also impose a formula for a “revenue stabilization fund” that would limit the state’s ability to spend available revenues even in years of substantial growth and would probably mean that we would face more years of shortfalls and added budget cuts with no consideration of public needs. Calculations used for the proposed revenue limit and to authorize unilateral spending cuts by the Governor would apparently be based on estimates of projected revenues by the Director of Finance rather than on actual revenue collections.
This proposal would make a shambles of our system of checks and balances, and in the process destroy any vision of a better future for our children.