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
This year, Republican legislators insisted on a cuts-only budget. Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines was vague on what those cuts should be, but said, “We can’t have a tax increase now. Neither on the rich, nor with the sales tax. The economy is too fragile.”
In reality, the far right didn’t have the stomach to impose enough cuts, insisting the Democrats support a thinly veiled form of massive borrowing. And that’s what the legislature adopted, 78 days late and under cover of night after voters and much of the media had gone to bed.
The Republicans are insisting on increasing income-tax withholding, meaning that the middle- to upper-income Californians who pay state taxes — if you make less than $50,000 a year, you probably do not pay them — will have a bigger chunk taken away, then get it back as a refund, making this an interest-free loan to state government.
It’s not a lasting solution, but it underscores the hypocritical gimmickry on both sides of the political aisle. Steve Maviglio, the strategist and spokesman for the battered Assembly Democrats, insisted after I broke the news Tuesday on my New West Notes blog that Schwarzenegger would become the first California governor to veto a state budget, that Jerry Brown, now California’s attorney general, had as governor vetoed a budget in 1979 that was overridden by the Democrat majority — a replay of what the legislature now intends to do to Schwarzenegger.
Such a move can’t hurt the legislature, which has a 15 percent approval rating in the new Field Poll and desperately wants credit for passing a budget. But Brown maintained to me that Maviglio is simply wrong. Brown did not veto a state budget but vetoed some big state-employee pay raises and was overridden by the legislature.
Today, “the budget is a mess,” says Brown, front-runner for governor in 2010 if he should run. “It doesn’t solve the structural problems, which are serious and systemic.”
Does he agree that Schwarzenegger should veto this budget? “Hey, I’m the attorney general, which means I’m the governor’s lawyer,” Brown answers. “I’m not getting into the political back-and-forth on this.”
Schwarzenegger says that if the legislature overrides him this week, he will veto “hundreds of bills” in retaliation — a dramatic move that could wipe out many pet Democratic laws among the vast pile of roughly 1,000 new laws legislators send the governor each year. This year, that pile includes an effort by Metro in Los Angeles to put a $40 billion transit-bond measure on the November ballot that raises money via a Los Angeles County sales-tax increase.
The governor’s communications director, Matt David, says the budget approved by legislators turns proposed rainy-day-fund reform into a “slush fund” — for legislators.
Schwarzenegger won’t actually veto it until Friday. He seems finally engaged in confronting an unsustainable budget process. Whether he succeeds, this year or the next, is another story.