IS IT TIME TO TRY ANOTHER APPROACH?
You've got to give Governor Brown major kudos for his patience and tenacity in trying to make a deal with the Legislature's Republicans. With the state facing a game-changing $26B budget gap, after already reducing general fund spending over the past several years by an estimated $14B, give or take a few billion, the state is at a precipice. Are we going to face the future with great ambition and vision or are we going to fall off a cliff and perhaps never recover our role in the nation and world as the place that "invents the future"? The Democrats have already agreed to a balanced approach and made an additional $12-14B in cuts to close the gap. But where's the rest going to come from? If we want to decimate the state, then the balance will be cuts as well. Say good-bye to quality education-at any level; care for the neediest Californians; public safety; adequate police and fire-services when man-made or natural crisis appears; maintaining and repairing our infrastructure--roads, bridges, sewers; assuring clean air and water and all the other services and programs we take for granted in a civilized world. The list is long and deep. But the Republicans today don't care--in fact, that don't want government to succeed and some are brazen enough to admit it.
Let's face it: Today's Republican "leaders" in the legislature bear no resemblance to those who preceded them and this "new breed" is committed to dismantling government-sponsored efforts, most of which help the poor and middle class. The wealthy continue to accumulate vast amounts of money and the rest of us continue to suffer as a result. While there may be a few of these "leaders" who realize that politics is the art of compromise, they're under so much pressure and, frankly, so spineless in the face of that pressure, that they're just not willing or able to make a deal. Governor Brown is desperately trying to make a deal and put the state in a position so it can recover and once again prosper. But with a 2/3 requirement to do anything meaningful in this state--like raise taxes or put a measure on the ballot without the tedious and time-consuming signature gathering process, Brown can't and won't win. He's got to be at the point where he realizes that he can't work with these people. For those of us who believe that government plays an important and integral role in making society work, we can only hope that the Governor won't, out of desperation, capitulate to the unreasonable demands being put forth by the few Republicans who are taking on the "good-cop" role with the other Republicans as the "bad cop." Demands like a permanent "hard" spending cap is and must be a non-starter, for example. It's simply bad for the future of this state. Of course, the "good cops" continue to put new and different demands on the table---up to 53 at last count, which would cause anyone to pull out his or her hair, so it's a good thing Jerry doesn't have to deal with that problem.
But what Jerry Brown is also dealing with is the fact that after a decade or more of Republican sound-bites saying that we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem, the public has drunk that kool-aid. Of course, part of the blame falls on Democrats who haven't had an equally as effective and cute sound-bite in response. Instead, they go into great detail about the various nuances and responsibilities of government, the complexities of budgets, etc. It's enough to make one's eyes glaze over---and they do.
The perception is that government is too big and too bloated. Unfortunately, the public also notes that the Democrats have been claiming for years that the sky is falling but it never has----Of course, that's because we have borrowed enormous amounts of money to keep the sky up. Unfortunately, we're about the pay the piper and that may be where we might have to go before the public steps up.
Hopefully Governor Brown will look for another approach. He is very smart, creative and determined, but right now the numbers and the public aren't supportive of the obvious options and I think he's stuck. Of course, one should never underestimate Jerry Brown, but right now the right-wing anti-government ideologues who want to destroy public education and infrastructure so they can privatize the state are winning this battle.