Thursday, June 16, 2011

California Democrats: With All This Horses**t, There's Got to Be a Pony in the Budget We Passed

However awful their politics, you have to admire the refusal of Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President Darrell Steinberg to take s**t from anybody, up to and including their colleague and governor Jerry Brown. They rammed a budget through both houses of the Legislature without Republican input, and assumed that the following would be just fine:
- Declining to pay off $750 million in old school debt, and effectively defaulting on almost $3.5 billion in payments to schools.
- Illegally raiding $1 billion in First Five funds without voter approval.
- Raising the state's sales tax and vehicle license fee, and applying a $150 surcharge to the insurance policies of residents in fire zones, by a simple majority vote.
- Illegal selling state-owned buildings worth $1.2 billion.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Brown vetoed this piece of crap in short order this morning, which sends us back to the same drawing board we've been at since March. What's surprising is Perez and Steinberg offering a spirited defense of the steaming load of garbage they sent to Brown's desk. In a press conference at the Capitol today, the two said they were "deeply dismayed" by the veto, and took shots at Brown for his failure to deliver the votes needed for his own plan. According to Steinberg, "The governor, I think, is really getting caught up and, frankly, a little bit confused between total victory, which in this process cannot actually be achieved in most instances in one year, and progress." Perez added, "When he failed again to get the needed Republican votes, we did the most responsible thing we could do with the limited resources before us. We passed an on-time balanced budget that had meaningful cuts far deeper than any of us would have liked to see ... Further cuts would have been in some cases gratuitous and in other cases devastating to economic recovery that we're now seeing in California." Responding to Brown's criticism that their budget could not be financed, Perez stated, "When you make a veto message, you usually don't say this is a wonderful, beautiful package you've sent me, but I'm going to veto it anyway. So there's a little bit of need to back up the veto."

Fans of liberal-on-liberal crime will note that Brown, for his part, is standing by the veto, and will confer with Controller John Chiang on whether lawmakers must forfeit pay as a result of the veto. Which would be the case in a just world: anyone who would describe yesterday's budget as "responsible" or as "progress", or who thinks were seeing "economic recovery" in this state, should not be let near any taxpayer dollars.

(UPDATE Jun 17: This is getting more interesting. According to the Sacramento Bee, Steinberg has announced a halt to confirmations of Brown appointees.)


  1. Why is selling state-owned buildings illegal?

    Personally, that's the exact opposite of what state and local governments should be doing. They should be selling all that oh-so-precious "greenspace" they've been spending billions of dollars purchasing and (this is very important) remove from the taxpaying rolls. A one-time hit of billions to cover current shortfalls, and a permanent addition to annual tax receipts. As a bonus, this will alleviate somewhat the government-created lack of land available for development, and the concomitant extreme volatility in California's housing markets. Win-win all around.

  2. It's complicated. One issue is that the transaction in question would cede ownership of court facilities without approval from the Judicial Council. Moreover, the state is required to lease back the buildings it sells for at least 2 decades. As a result, the LAO says the sale amounts to a 10% loan over 35 years; the argument then goes that the resulting profit at taxpayer expense violates laws against gifts to private citizens.

    In principle, I agree with you. But in terms of legality, the sale would actually face significant obstacles.

  3. The government should be consolidating anyway. Sell the buildings free and clear and move the people somewhere else.

  4. Pretty much. How vital can the work in these buildings be if the state has spent the better part of 3 years figuring out how to sell them?


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