California Ballot Debrief: If I Had $30 Billion…

By Guest Columnist May 20, 2009

By Libby Sholes photo credit: Ambidanze The election is over, and the five revenue-generating ballot propositions have failed. We were warned: vote these down, and our Legislature will have to make huge, ugly cuts in education and social programs. With a voter-mandated requirement that we must have a two-thirds vote to pass any budget and all tax increases, raising rates on the rich – even restoring the old Reagan-Wilson rates – is simply not looking good. But this year is different. Why? President Obama has directed over $30 billion to California to relieve pressure on our state General Fund. Did you read one single word about that in the debate over Propositions 1A to 1F? No. And why not? Nobody is talking. There is money for education, community clinics, general and mental health – and yet the Governor and the entire Legislature are acting as if we are at the door of the poorhouse. With no further tax increases possible, they are calling for massive cuts but with no discussion of the federal money. Is it allocated already? The best judgment is no – we have not distributed most of it. What galls me is why our first Black woman Speaker of the Assembly and for that matter most of the Democrats, are so silent on this issue. We have money. Why are we not using it to preserve essential programs? We must demand a full accounting of the federal money when the best judgment is that we are at most $21 billion short with $30 billion from the feds. What would you save if you had $30 billion? We have the right to know how and where that money is spent. But cutting programs is so easy. Why not pick on the poor? And for poor read communities of color. Most of the programs targeted for reduction slash and burn even more of the safety net. It makes good sense if you are politically lazy. The poor, especially in communities of color, are expendable because they don’t fight back. Yet. Maybe it’s time to change all that? Libby Sholes is the Director of Public Policy at the California Council of Churches/California Church IMPACT.