On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown took a new direction in his budget fight. He released a video on YouTube asking us, the voters of California, to let him and our legislators know if we want the opportunity to vote on taxes in a special election.
The vote in June would decide if temporary income, vehicle and sales taxes, which are set to expire, should be extended. In the video, the governor warned that, “drastic alterations in the very fabric of our public service” will take place without the extensions.
Last week, lawmakers approved cuts that will close about $7.4 billion of the estimated $26-billion budget deficit. The victims of their knife were libraries, universities and colleges, state parks, child care and programs for the developmentally disabled, mentally ill and the poor.
According to the governor, without approval of the tax extensions, the amount of reductions would double. Those would also include cuts to health care, police and fire services.
Another big victim of the budget ax would be our public schools. If the temporary taxes are allowed to expire, the money coming down from Sacramento to our local school district will be slashed even more.
We’re fortunate here in Glendale that the school district was able to use temporary federal stimulus money to avoid teacher lay-offs next fall. With a drastic reduction in state funding, how long before lay-offs would be in the picture once again?
Last week the L.A. Times reported that several Republican legislators were threatening to withhold their votes on the budget unless the governor gives in to their demand of drastic changes to the California Environmental Quality Act.
The Times obtained a copy of the draft legislation, which would decimate a basic protection given to Californians: the right to legally challenge a developer’s Environmental Impact Report. Citizen groups would have to submit a deposit of up to $50,000 to the court in order to make such a challenge. Obviously, most grass-roots groups do not have pockets that deep.
For those of us in the Crescenta Valley, that would limit our ability to fight developments such as the one proposed for the Verdugo Hills Golf Course.
In order to put the tax question before us in June, Brown needs the support of four Republican legislators, two each in the Assembly and the Senate. So far, no one wants to cross that great partisan divide unless the governor gives them what they want.
What are the Republicans afraid of? Why don’t they want to allow us to decide if we want to continue the taxes? It’s our money, isn’t it?
We should be able to say that the budget bloodletting must stop and that we’re willing to extend the taxes to stem some of the bleeding.
To find out how to contact your state legislators, go to http://www.legislature.ca.gov/.
How bad can bad get? If there’s no tax extension, we will only have to wait until the budget cuts go into effect to get that answer.
SHARON RAGHAVACHARY is on the steering committee for Crescenta Valley Community Assn. and a member of the Family Advisory Council for Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.