Saturday, October 1, 2011

The 'Other' Brown Predicts California Trigger Cuts

Willie Brown’s been wrong before, though you’d never know that from listening to him.  But the corrupt, patronage-oriented former Speaker of the California Assembly (he humbly called himself the ‘Ayatollah of the Assembly’), ex-San Francisco Mayor and self-proclaimed doyen of California politics is predicting that another Brown, California’s Governor, is in for big trouble.

If you’ll recall, Governor Jerry Brown’s budget only passed because it included several ‘triggers’.  He was able to get it through the Senate and Assembly by relying on extraordinarily optimistic predictions for monthly revenue, which from the very outset have failed to materialise.  What that means, in the context of the trigger provisions in the budget, is that a series of cuts will have to go into effect, because the state is structurally incapable of raising revenue thanks to the single-issue Republican Party, which has turned taxation from a tool into a moral and political end.
If we fall $1-2 billion short, we’re looking at $600 million in cuts.  If the shortfall is more severe, we’re talking nearly two billion in cuts. 

These cuts (see the Sacramento Bee for a detailed breakdown) will impact the University of California, the California State University, In-Home Supportive Services, the Department of Developmental Services, public safety agencies, California Community Colleges, childcare funds, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the California State Library, Medi-Cal Management, and the Department of Social Services.  In the worst-case scenario, our schools, so far protected (although they remain terribly under-funded, meaning crowded classrooms, teachers being constantly shifted, thousands of pink slips going out every year), would take the brunt of the cuts and would lose seven days of school (they’ve already lost five over the last few years).

Willie Brown protects his sources better than most journalists (and a part of me suspects that, like politicians’ friends, they only exist in his head), but he’s convinced that the shortfall is going to take the other Brown by surprise.  Which wouldn’t be altogether surprising.  Brown—Jerry, that is—has been outmanoeuvred by the Republican Party at every turn, and many of the California GOP’s representatives are salivating at the thought of hacking into the state’s social services on the scale that a total revenue failure would allow.

If Brown (Willie) is right about the impending trigger cuts, we will have further evidence of the dangers of short-term thinking and planning, of caving in to selfish and powerful interests, and of failing to have a serious discussion about reforming our politics and identifying our society’s underlying moral principles.

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