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Balance the Budget

Here is your chance to take a stab at balancing the budget yourself. Next 10 is a non-partisan, non profit organization whose aim is to teach citizens to start thinking critically about their state, now and for the future.

Take the Challenge and prove to the Governor, cuts on children and the poorest members of our community are not the answer

Tell him Oil Companies and for profit Corporations, must pay their fair share.

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Cuts to In-Home Care from KQED

Cuts to In-Home Care How are state budget cuts and a recent federal lawsuit affecting California's In-Home Supportive Services Program? The program assists thousands of low-income seniors and disabled people. Host: Michael Krasny
 

Govt Reform For All To Love… And Hate

August 13, 2009

Govt Reform For All To Love… And Hate

John Myers

August 13, 2009

Govt Reform For All To Love… And Hate

A bipartisan group of seasoned ex-politicians and policy wonks has settled on a package of government reform proposals while sending a pretty simple message to those inside the state Capitol: work with us or stand aside.

The leaders of the group California Forward sent a letter today to Governor Schwarzenegger and the leaders of the Legislature outlining a detailed set of proposals crafted after the group's long listening tour around the state.

"Our goal," says the letter, "is fundamental change: government that's small enough to listen, big enough to tackle real problems, smart enough to spend our money wisely in good times and bad, and honest enough to be held accountable for results."

The letter is signed by CA Forward's co-chairs, former Assembly speaker Bob Hertzberg and Thomas McKernan, CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The group has settled on an endorsement of 11 government reforms; read the Hertzberg/McKernan letter for the entire list. Among the more intriguing proposals are majority vote passage for a budget, and a tightening of the Legislature's ability to go around a tax increase through the raising of specific fees.

The majority vote budget is a familiar demand. But what's interesting is that California Forward's position is an actual honest to goodness majority vote; even a Democratic-sponsored initiative plan doesn't go that far, suggesting instead the legislative vote threshold be reduced to 55% (Another initiative pegs it at 60%). The group is embracing a simple majority vote (they reject calls for a lowering of the vote needed to raise taxes) even though polling they commissioned shows less than half of those surveyed like the idea.

On the fees issue, California Forward switches from siding with liberals to siding with conservatives. A long standing gripe, one that's been litigated but never really settled, is that the Legislature imposes a fee by a majority vote... and then ostensibly uses those fee revenues in ways critics say actually operate like a tax. Of course, it's never quite clear cut, hence the reason the issue remains hotly debated. The California Forward plan would "clarify the circumstances in which the Legislature and the governor can impose fees without a two-thirds majority vote to those areas with a clear and justifiable nexus to the service provided."

Other proposals from the group are much more broad, and perhaps a little harder to enforce, including ways to link state budget decisions more to actual results and effectiveness of programs.

Hertzberg (who became co-chair after Leon Panetta was called back to the political major leagues) and McKernan write in their letter that while they hope lawmakers move the reform proposals forward on their own, the group would consider the initiative route if Capitol consensus isn't doable.

Given how consensus resides with the Tooth Fairy in the state Capitol... expect much of the California Forward agenda to depend on the political campaign process if it's ever to get off the ground.

 

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Our Legislators and the Governor need to understand that their choices have human faces, that there are real people affected by these actions and this is not a poker game. 

These people are our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors, our children.  They are not numbers or statistics to be used as a political tool. 

Please share your story with us. Let us know how these decisions made in a room in Sacramento are affecting you.

To our fellow Organizers, Labor Activists, Health Care Workers; we want your and need your help
. We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Laura & Marta

   

Budget Essay #13: Women & Children First! oops: no lifeboats....

Line Item Veto Blue(pencil)s:Women and Children First (into the drink)

by Sheila Kuehl
August 5, 2009

This second of two essays presents further information on the budget amendments passed by both houses in late July and the consequent line item vetoes by the Governor.  In this essay, I describe the line-item changes made by the Governor without agreement by the legislature and how his decision to increase the deep cuts already contained in the amended budget is impacting women, children, seniors, people with AIDS and the poor.

Since the very late budget adopted last September, the Legislature has been called upon by the Governor to engage in an unprecedented continuous session on the budget.  Even in the worst of times, previous Governors have found a way to solve the problem within a rational process, bringing all sides together for a fix, once a year.  This year has been very different, with constant broadsides from the Governor's smoking tent and three different budgets adopted so far.  Negotiations proceed only with the four legislative leaders, constantly, day after day, with little but cuts and non-budget "reforms" on the Governor's menu each time.  Finally, late last month, the Legislature was forced to adopt another bloody round of cuts with no new taxes or fees.  In my last essay, I described that budget.  Here is the rest of the story:
 

Are the Guv's line items vetoes illegal?

With cries from Steinberg and Bass that they had saved HHS, the signing of the budget today was a massive blow to the rather weak, and short lived spin.  The cries were silenced when Health & Human Services was wiped out with the stroke of a blue pencil leaving an unbearable silence throughout legislative offices.  The cries slowly turned to claims of "illegal" and that the Governor's pencil had over stepped it's boundaries...

We've added some analysis from Dave Dayen at D-Day:

There's been quite a bit of confusion about whether or not the Governor was able to make line-item cuts in this budget. After all, it was a revision, not a budget agreement where spending appropriations are made. In those cases the Governor can make cuts, but this was a revision consisting of a series of cuts and fund shifts, and it's unclear whether the Governor can make additional cuts on top of cuts in a budget revision.

Craig Cornett, the Budget Director in the office of Darrell Steinberg, has sent out a letter to interested parties, which I've reproduced below. Cornett reiterates the argument that the revisions do not constitute appropriations, and should not be subject to the line-item veto. This is particularly true with any appropriation reductions that passed with a simply majority vote, since a budget vote must have a 2/3 majority. Cornett offers the remedy here, but he confines it to the courts.


Should the Controller implement these vetoes, we suspect that some party that will be injured by the vetoes will file a lawsuit. Given the sweep of the reductions, this could come from any of a number of potential plaintiffs, such as children who will no longer have health insurance because of the reductions to Healthy Families Programs, battered women’s shelters that will be threatened with closure because of elimination of funding for the Domestic Violence Program, AIDS prevention and treatment programs that will no longer receive state support because of the elimination of Office of AIDS funding, or counties that will see cuts to their Child Welfare Services or Medi-Cal administration funding.


What Cornett leaves out of this analysis is the ability for the Legislature to override the Governor's blue pencil edits. Obviously that is off the menu, as far as we know.