I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

23 December 2010

Budget Apocalypse 2011: The Second Coming of Jerry

Last week, the Governor-Elect had one of his charming little summits in Los Angeles.  This one was on education.  The key takeaways were that we need to stop bothering Jerry so much.  I mean, you'd think he'd run for Governor or something on a platform we were expecting him to keep.

...hey, Jerry?  YOU DID.  So can it.

Anyway, he agreed that education had taken the brunt of the cuts, but that was just too bad and to expect more and more miserable cutting in his next budget.  Also, he wants a passed budget in 60 days upon his entry.  Furthermore, Californians aren't willing to pay for the services they want, so that's just tough for school people.  And everyone else, too: the budget he's apparently planning to propose is going to be a big nightmare.  Sez Jerry.

Dan Walters of the Sac Bee thinks this is all part of Jerry's big plan:
  1. Propose a truly miserable budget that cuts all services to the bone, particularly popular ones like education.  (Note to Dan: Dude, in the case of education, we'll be on to the marrow now.)
  2. Propose special election for a tax hike.  Campaign for tax hike is "This budget or your money".
  3. Get state Congress to pass Doom Budget.
  4. Taxes win in special election.
  5. Have a new, better budget ready to go.
This seems plausible, if stupid.  Among other things, I have lived through several special elections in California.  The Groper's "Pensions for None, Money for Me" special election went down big (even the one good proposal on it: re-regulating utilities).  The "We Passed a Budget that Counts on You to Raise Taxes on Lower and Middle Income People" special election didn't go over so well either.  Moreover, irritants like Dianne Feinstein claimed that the failure was because Californians don't want to pay taxes.  (I dunno about all Californians, but I explained to Dianne that I'm plenty willing to pay taxes and tax corporations and the wealthy.  I'm just not so cool about regressive taxation.  Dianne wrote back to tell me that she knows everything.  Well, more or less that's what it said.  I write to Dianne with some regularity since she's always doing something miserable, and that's pretty much the response I always get.)

So old Jerry's willing to take a pretty big gamble on the photogenic quality of teachers and schools.  Dan Walters observed that he doesn't think the Dems in the state Congress will be so enthusiastic about passing Jerry's Doom Budget.  That's worth crossing one's fingers, I'd say.

It's not that I disagree in principle: we aren't raising state revenues sufficient to what the state needs, and way too many Californians have drunk the Korporate Kool-Aid and think taxes are bad and government takes money just to roll around in piles of it because services are free and those people are the only ones who get any services and those people don't deserve it anyway.  (Gee, sounds like the big old pile of money Jerry sat on until he got 13 for his pains.)

I do disagree in reality.  I look at the news and I note that business interests are praising Austerity Ireland even as it fails...while Iceland refuses austerity and recovers.  I hear whining Rethuglicans bearing giant scissors against the poor.  The interests that don't really care if our schools have enough money to survive have the cash to spend beating a tax proposal.

I don't know what options the state has to fund schools without some kind of revenues deal, and Prop. 26 (dear CTA, CFT: Next time, TAKE A POSITION) will complicate getting the money together.  On the other hand, Perez and the Dems in the Assembly could probably cook up a good scheme to punt this a few years down the road, and frankly?  A few years from down the road can't be as bad as now.

According to Rachel Norton, this sounds like another $25 - 30 million cut for SFUSD.  So I think we teachers can safely assume that we will have to face down our sad, sad BoE and Superintendent as they explain how it's not their fault and that they are far too spineless to refuse to pass a budget and (possibly) go into receivership (along with every other District in the state that's not already there) because if the state takes over, they lose their jobs it's really bad for the children.*  Also, equity only applies in good budget years.  Oh, and those new administrative officials?  Waaaay more necessary than teachers.

More broadly, to both SFUSD and the state, I think we need to start considering the Power of No, the possibility of civil disobedience and the refusal to play by the rules of Pass the Blame and Share the Burden.

And it goes without saying that we should begin planning our protest outfits and colors.  Traditionally, in local protests where schools select a color to identify their contingent, we're big on pink.  This requires some wardrobe arrangement on my part.

*I don't entirely disagree.  I do think that the tender embrace of the educrats and prostisuits at the state isn't worse for my school than the proposal the Board is likely to vote into action.  I've lived through state audit and Reading First: at least we still had teachers.  And I think it is deeply offensive to lecture teachers and communities about The Children without a. taking responsibility for what you are about to do to those children and b. mentioning that state takeover means the state fires the Superintendent and the Board loses its power.  You don't make self-interest dissipate by not mentioning it.


Caroline said...

Just as a technicality, I don't think Jerry Brown deserves the blame for Prop. 13. This is a really good account of the runup to Prop. 13:


I'm also not totally opposed to his using the tactics that Dan Walters describes, actually. I think he needs to say "OK, Californians, either start modifying Prop. 13 or say bye-bye to half your freeways and the state park system," or whatever. Chest-pounding like Schwarzenegger's is not the way to deal with the crisis that our grandparents and great-grandparents dumped on us -- it needs to truly be dealt with.

Anonymous said...

I think the surplus Brown sat on, along with his vaguely anti-13 positioning (followed by fervent implementation) shouldn't be forgotten. Most people my age and younger seem to remember the name Governor Moonbeam, his Civic and his Linda Ronstadt-dating more than his actual policy positions (which to me are center-right).

The problem with Brown's plan for me is that it is very possible that the special election will fail. For the middle class and better, that may be a reality check. For the families at my school, it would be catastrophic. In scorched earth tactics, somebody gets scorched.

Caroline said...

Brown wasn't vaguely anti-13 -- he was strongly anti-13 at the time. (I was a California voter and homeowner in 1978 -- young and opposed to Prop. 13 myself, I hasten to add.)

E. Rat said...

I don't believe that his statements or actions provided a strong anti-13 alternative. I'm not alone in this, and I'm a lifer Californian from an anti-13 family: your memories of Brown's stance is not the only one.

Besides, given 13, Brown became a "born-again tax cutter".

His current plans remind me a lot of what Jacob Hacker notes about current progressive politics: plenty of time and energy on white liberal boutique issues, no coherent position on wealth or class (to which I would add race). What Brown is proposing is bad for everyone and truly horrible for the poor and lower-middle class. I can't support a plan of action that has such a high chance of condemning the already hard-working and over-pressured families in my community to utter doom.

E. Rat said...

edit: are not the only ones.