The California state budget is due, by law, on June 30. However, because of California's absurd requirement of a supermajority 2/3 vote to pass a budget, the minority Republicans in the legislature have successfully blocked the budget for nearly six (count them) months. And in all this time, they've never said what they want to do about the budget; all they've done is object to whatever the Democrats or the governor suggested, especially if it included taxes.
I'm the wrong person to be writing this; the magnitude of this mess deserves the talents of the late, great Molly Ivins. But I'm the one who's here.
Today the Republicans finally revealed a positive plan (in the narrow sense that they would support it; it has no positive features in the usual sense of the word) to balance the state budget.
They want to do it on the backs of California's school children. California K-12 budget this year is $58 billion; they want to reduce that to $48 billion. I can't tell you the exact percentage because the $10 billion cut is over the next 18 months. But it's over 15%, on top of cuts already made so far.
I saw no mention in the Republican plan of reducing any spending on prisons. I guess they'd rather send the kids to jail than educate them. I haven't checked the numbers, but we're close to spending more money on prisons than on schools now, and this could easily put us over the edge.
Mind you, the Republicans don't restrict their attention to the schools; they also want to cut funding for the poor and the mentally ill homeless. Their edifying proposals also include:
...Reduced monthly supplemental security income payments to very poor people. I have a friend receiving SSI - her monthly check would go from $870 to $830. You try living on either of those amounts.
...Reduced funding for mental health services to homeless adults. (Prop. 63, 2004)
...Reduced health care and education programs for very young children (by diverting tobacco taxes back into the general fund). (Prop. 10, 1998)
The numbers and dates in parentheses are the voter-approved propositions which established the funding, and the years they passed. The voters would have to approve the changes, which means a special election, which the state would have trouble paying for without a budget.
They propose one cut I fully approve of: a 5% across the board cut in the Legislature's operating budget, including their salaries. Of course, I don't think they should be paid for what they're doing at all.
Finally, they want to improve the business climate by "relaxing environmental and labor regulations. Those would include extending deadlines to retrofit diesel engines in trucks and changing the rules on overtime pay and meal breaks."
I was wrong. This doesn't need Molly Ivins; this needs Charles Dickens. This is Victorian; and the Republicans are Victorian in their smug self-righteousness. They'd rather see people die of asthma or lung cancer from diesel fumes than force companies to do technically possible retrofits (there are two sides to the diesel retrofit, and I admit it; but I'm making a point here). They'd rather make people work 14 hour days without overtime pay than force employers to keep track of how many hours their employees work. And they don't care about the poor, the mentally ill, or the homeless.
I wonder how long it'll be before some Republican suggests that we re-institute that great English institution, the workhouse. We certainly have a lot of poor homeless people to put in them.