As it turns out that is just the tip of the iceberg for education. To see that we need to do a little math. In March, it was announced that the state was already $8 billion in the hole despite the budget agreement from February 20, 2009. Frankly, it may be worse than that by now, but let us assume that is the case. The ballot propositions provide for a variety of shifting and borrowing on monies. If they do not pass, the state will have to find another $7 billion. So the total impact will be roughly $15 billion that the state has to find.
He warned that if these ballot propositions fail:
“Education will take the single largest hit its ever taken in its history.”
Well here’s his reasoning.
How does he see the propositions playing out?
“I think the propositions are going to be very tough. Tough in the sense that most of the activists at this convention believe that this was the wrong kind of decision for us to make. On the other hand at the Republican convention they were arguing the same thing. I always worry when our Democrats are on the same side as [Insurance Commissioner and Republican Governor Candidate] Steve Poizner and [Republican Governor Candidate] Meg Witman and Howard Jarvis Tax Associations.
I believe that we will hopefully have the support coming out of this convention at least of the majority of folks. That will go, hit the ballot, and win on particularly [Proposition] 1A. And then we’re going to have to do those larger things I’ve mentioned. We’re going to have to get rid of the two-thirds [budget requirement]. We’re go to really have to reform the tax structure. But we don’t live another day on May 20 unless we get this.”
What happens on May 20?
“May 20 is really clear to me, it’s an all-cuts budget, period. There’s not one more Republican in that house that is going to vote for a tax increase. We lose twenty billion dollars plus in taxes. May 20 is an all-cuts budget, period. I expect it to be a quick budget because we’re not going to have to convince a Republican to vote for this one because there will not be a tax increase in it. It will be the most painful quick budget in California history.
I think there is no other way to look at this thing. We can’t borrow. We can’t tax. So it will be an all-cuts budget hurting probably the most vulnerable in California in a way that we never intended.”
How bad will that hurt education?
“I think education will take the single largest hit its ever taken in its history. There is just no way around it. The fact that Prop 1B is tied to Prop 1A, there’s $9 billion just there. How we find the additional $10 billion to $12 billion has to effect education, it will probably impact the bottom line. I think classroom sizes will get larger. I think the Governor is going to use, people here have said we don’t want to give the Governor the power to do midyear cuts, we’re giving away something. I think the Governor is going to do something more disastrous, he’s going to furlough people in large amounts. I don’t think we have any control over that right now either. It’s either we allow the Governor to furlough real working people and cut education or on May 20 we have to have a more disciplined discussion of what we need to do.”
Right now, the ballot initiatives are likely to fail. Those on the right oppose them because they oppose any increased taxation and support the cutting of government programs like education, and other things in order to balance the budget.
The activist left and progressive communities oppose the compromise because they believe that these are draconian cuts and there are better ways to achieve a balanced budget.
My friend Paul Hogarth sums up the activist perspective pretty well. You can also read Linda Sutton’s views on the initiatives. These are two of the better pieces that sum of the activist left side of the aisle.
The Democratic activists this week were able to block the endorsement of Prop 1A (the budget spending cap), 1D (which takes money from children’s health care) and 1E (which diverts money from mental health). Not surprisingly health care, mental health, and other advocates are strongly opposed to these ballot initiatives as they take vital moneys from already funding starved programs.
Up until last week, I was almost certainly going to oppose the ballot initiatives. I may yet.
But talking to people I respect like Dean Florez, Assemblymember Paul Fong, Assemblymember Dave Jones, has given me considerable pause. The activists somehow believe there is going to be another way.
While CTA (California Teacher’s Association) has endorsed the propositions, CTF (California Teacher’s Federation) is opposing them. They believe they can take the state to court to sue for Prop 98 money. Is that realistic? Controller John Chiang couldn’t even convince the courts that the Governor couldn’t reduce state workers’ pay to $6.25 an hour, and they are going to convince the courts to give education $9 billion that the state doesn’t have? I just do not think this is the winning strategy.
I suppose I part with my progressive and grassroots friends on this, I think the worse outcome is us to roll the dice and hope for something better, rather than taking perhaps the lesser of the two horrible outcomes.
What is at stake locally–for all of the wrangling about education, not nearly enough has tied state outcomes to local ones. We are talking about an estimated $3 million hit on the local schools. Honestly, I think that may be best case scenario. We know about what $3 million means. It means at least 50 more layoffs. At least.
For my conservatives readers, you may want to pay close attention if you are looking at these scenarios and dreaming. There is but another possibility. Of course for liberals you to rely on Arnold. However, one of the Republican leaders pointed this out as still a possibility if the Governor gets angry enough at the ballot initiatives going down.
Back in December, the Democrats proposed a majority budget which used a series of very specific fees in lieu of taxes to balance the budget. At that time, it was a non-starter for the Governor. But times may have changed. If the Governor knows that the Republicans will not go for additional revenue increases, there is a possibility that he and the Democrats can reach an agreement on a majority budget. The result will be a court battle, but given the economic crisis, the Governor might prevail on this one too. That might save education for the time being, but I am sure you Republicans are not going to like it.
The problem for those of us on the other side is that we have to count on Arnold to do the right thing. Is that what you want to hang the future of education in this state on?
I just do not know. I know the ballot propositions do a lot of horrible things. I know a lot of perhaps even worse things will happen if they do not pass. I do not know that I am willing to roll the dice on education. I honestly believe that if the worst case scenario becomes reality we are looking at a lost generation of kids in this state. You can talk about living within our means all you want, but the reality is that “living within our means” means those who can least afford to take a hit, will take a huge one. It is up to you to decide whether you can live with that reality.
—David M. Greenwald reporting