“I put up an all-cuts budget. Then the Democrats change [the all-cuts budget] and put in gimmicks. Then I veto it. Then everybody sits there until we run out of money. It’s not going to be a pretty sight. It’s like one-two: No tax, all cuts, gimmicky budget, veto, paralysis.”
This is what Gov. Brown said in an interview with George Skelton of the LA Times on March 10, showing remarkable political insight. Brown wasn’t speculating in the interview. Rather, he was predicting “without hesitation”, says Skelton. Events have shown him to be accurate. He did indeed veto a flimsy budget. So, since he was correct about the veto, what he predicted will happen after the veto should concern us all.
“There’ll be an unleashing of left and right forces. Everyone will come out fighting. California will become a battleground…. It’ll be a war of all against all. The loser will be the people of California.”
Ballot initiatives will become a huge battleground, with tax measures from Democrats, and anti-union and anti-public sector measures from Republicans. Few if any of these measures will have much interest in helping California as a whole but rather are aimed at bolstering certain constituencies and attacking others. In a remarkable coincidence, the constituencies being bolstered by such initiatives are also those who give the most money to politicians and lobbyists supporting the initiatives. I knew you’d be shocked.
Democratic lawmakers appeared to be gobsmacked by the budget veto, and it is likely that relations between them and Gov. Brown will become increasingly strained as it sinks in that he, as always, is a maverick who doesn’t move in lockstep with them. But, if Brown accurately predicted his veto, then it seems odd that lawmakers didn’t see it coming too. Maybe they did, suggests Dan Walters. Maybe the whole house of cards budget was passed by the deadline with the express purpose of ensuring that legislators will be paid, even as they knew it would probably be vetoed.
A new state law mandates that legislators not be paid if a balanced budget doesn’t pass by June 15. Brown says the budget wasn’t balanced. Controller John Chiang is charged with making the final decision, and he seems to be hedging. “If Chiang pays legislators, the rejected budget will look like a giant charade by Democrats to evade the law,” said Walters. It would also be a new low in sleaze by a legislature that has never shown much interest in working for the needs of Californians as a whole.
In the LA Times interview, Brown stated that the intransigence of some Republicans is also a major stumbling block at working towards a budget.
“Some Republicans want paralysis. They want to blow it up. They’re in a minority, but they’re very vociferous. They’d like to see government implode. That’s where we’re headed. I’m trying to pull us back from the brink.”
Is the brink where we want to go? If not, then we need to act fast to prevent it.