By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Not long after, standing next to Davis, who was flanked on the other side by L.A. Senator Gil Cedillo, a critic since Davis‘ veto of Cedillo’s bill to allow driver‘s licenses to undocumented immigrants, L.A. Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh took up the governor’s perhaps unintended gauntlet.
After some pleasantries, which Firebaugh began by noting the Latino Legislative Caucus‘ differences with Davis, the caucus chairman picked up that gauntlet. “Governor,” he declared to great applause, “we’ll take up the challenge from you and come up with our own budget. California deserves the best, and we‘re going to do our best to come up with it this weekend in San Francisco” (where caucus members will hold a retreat at the San Francisco Hilton).
After that, Davis, Firebaugh and Cedillo huddled for a minute or two on the side of the stage. When the governor had departed, Cedillo, the new chairman of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, told the Weekly, “Wasn’t that great with Marco? You never know. Gray shocked me on Friday,” when Davis, in what he described as “the only good thing in my budget,” expanded health care for children, a program Cedillo had championed.
Firebaugh was enthusiastic but realistic. “We know there‘s going to be a lot we don’t like in the final budget,” he told the Weekly. “But we have the opportunity to give the system a major tweaking, and we‘re going to take it.”
As the Latino Caucus readies itself for its push on the overall budget, L.A. Senator Sheila Kuehl -- a front-runner to succeed Burton as Senate leader when the fiery San Francisco liberal steps down at the end of his term -- discussed Senate plans to deal with the $10 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year. “Even though we’re still looking at the midyear correction, there will have to be resolution by the end of January,” she said. “We have to decide how many cuts we want to get to this midyear solution. Responsible cuts, which will include things the governor‘s not proposing. And new revenues, not just long-term but now to partly balance the cuts.”
Kuehl sees “two pennies of cuts for one penny of new revenues” as the balance point in dealing with the current shortfall. And fewer cuts in services versus more cuts elsewhere, notably in the massive corrections budget. “I’m not talking about the prison-guards contract,” she said, “which everybody always focuses on, but the underlying system. The prisons are bloated because we‘ve made everything a crime in this state. The big expense is too many nonviolent offenders and octogenarians on dialysis in prison at $35K a year.”
On the revenue side, Kuehl and other Senate Dems want to raise the vehicle-license fee and perhaps some other fees, including fees on polluters, which they say they can do with only a majority vote.
For the longer-term budget, Kuehl, like others, joins with Davis on higher taxes for the wealthy but parts company with him in supporting “careful” increases for business (Davis’ current plan would raise no new corporate tax revenue) and wants to tax many services as well as goods.
Much will be happening in the next few weeks in this circus of many rings.