State Senator Fran Pavley, (D-Agoura Hills), issued the following statement on the vote to close California’s $26.3 billion budget hole.
While I’m pleased we finally have approved the budget revision, there is no cause for celebration. My Democratic colleagues and I have been forced to cut in areas that we would have never considered if California were not facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
In addition to steep cuts to education, transportation, and social services, cities and counties that have already been hard hit by the recession will have to absorb yet another blow—a sharp reduction in money dedicated to local government. As a former teacher and former mayor it pains me to see these cuts. I have consistently opposed any raid on local government revenues to balance the state budget. Not only will cities, counties, and special districts loose $4.7 billion—money they use to run libraries, pay for police and fire protection, and maintain parks—the state is required, under voter approved Proposition1A, to pay local governments back with interest within three years.
Our ability to soften the blow of budget cuts was hampered significantly by the requirement of a two-thirds vote. California is one of only three states that require a two-thirds vote to pass a budget. It’s time to reform this broken system and stop allowing the minority party to hold the state hostage. This has led directly to the dramatic cuts to education, transportation, local governments and other important services.
Historically during tough times Republican Governors Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson– in the true measure of bi-partisan leadership– negotiated compromise solutions involving a balance of cuts and new revenues. This time around Governor Schwarzenegger and Republicans drew a line in the sand when it came to new revenues– even taxes on big tobacco and oil companies. But the very idea that this budget does not include new taxes is hypocritical. This budget gouges $3 billion from colleges and universities and the resulting tuition increases are a tax on California families. Many of our children will face even more crowded classrooms and will be denied access to health care. Our roads will continue to deteriorate as money for city streets and transit systems has been reduced.
Finally, I have worked tirelessly to protect our environment and a vote which allows the first new oil drilling off the California coast in 40 years is an end run around a decision previously made by the California State Lands Commission to deny this project. In exchange the state will receive $100 million royalties from Plains Exploration & Production Co., the Texas-based company that would be extracting the oil. This is a sweetheart deal with mitigation conditions that may not be legally enforced.
There is not much good news in this budget and we as Californians need to take a good look at overhauling the budget process.