Sacramento Bee Editorial
Sacramento Bee Editorial
Budget honesty - Arnold's got it;
Dems don't, except Perata
Published 2:15 am PDT Wednesday, May 18, 2005
California lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger confront some stark choices this year. In deciding what to do with a spurt of new tax revenues, they can pad existing programs and create new commitments. Or they can try to close a $5 billion budget gap that will surely mushroom next year.
Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill, in her mannerly and erudite way, urged lawmakers Monday to take the latter route. In her report on the governor's revised budget, Hill praised the governor for using new revenues to reduce debt without adding, unduly, to state programs. She urged lawmakers to adopt solutions "which are of the same magnitude as the administration's proposal."
In other words, the Legislature's main budget analyst is issuing a polite challenge to her bosses. She is reminding Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and other Democrats they need a concrete plan for new revenues -in other words, new taxes -if they want to spend an extra $2 billion on schools.
State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who fires off blasts like a kid with a new shotgun, took a few minutes to examine Schwarzenegger's budget Friday and then called him "the master of dishonesty and deception." We think it is dishonest and deceptive for politicians to call for extra spending on almost everything - schools, the elderly, the poor, transportation - without a plan to pay for it.
Although Angelides has mumbled about higher taxes on top-tier earners, he hasn't led on this issue. Nor has he laid out a realistic set of priorities. Contrast that with Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who has risked much by advocating both higher taxes and reforms of Proposition 98, which mandates spending for schools. Perata decries the escalator effect of Proposition 98, and we concur. Yet he thinks schools are being shortchanged, and has suggested a tax increase to fix that.
We don't like all aspects of the governor's plan. As mentioned here yesterday, the governor wants to mandate several new one-time programs for schools, adding to the list of "categoricals" that lawmakers have heaped on public education. Schwarzenegger once criticized those school mandates. Now that he drinks the water here in Sacramento, he seems to be infected with the categorical bug.
Even with such miscues, the governor's budget is far better than what Assembly Democrats have put forward, which is nothing: zip. If Democrats don't present a workable alternative soon, they may get hoisted with their own petards - "masters of dishonesty and deception."