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The California Budget Impasse

Too Close for Comfort

by WILLIE L. PELOTE, Sr.

California Governor Jerry Brown is right to call off budget talks with Republicans in Sacramento.

There was no point in continuing a conversation with a minority party bent on obstruction and whose hold on political power is predicated on preventing the emergence of solutions to the state’s structural budget deficit.

It was clear from the ridiculous demands the Republicans were making that they were only interested in lengthening and delaying the budget process in order to forestall a special election in which California voters would have the opportunity to decide whether they wanted to erase the state’s remaining budget deficit through tax extensions.

If such a vote were to occur, and if California voters were to support extending taxes on sales, income, and cars, such a result would serve to soundly repudiate the Republican claim that Californians want limited government and are averse to taxes.

What Californians want, in fact, are robust social programs like health care, welfare, child care, and mental health, strong public education and transportation systems, environmental protection, clean water, and open spaces in our state parks.

This has been confirmed in poll after poll.

Most recently, a Field Poll in March showed that 58 percent of voters approved of Governor Brown’s proposal to extend taxes on sales, income, and cars. Then a companion poll in April showed that 61 percent of Californians support the right of teachers and civil servants to bargain collectively. At the same time, another April poll found that 78 percent of California voters support raising the personal income taxes of individuals making $500,000 or more.

Where California voters have erred in the past is to assume that the programs and services administered by the state above could continue to operate effectively without revenues to sustain them.

It seems that Californians are finally coming to realize that taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.

It’s obvious that Republicans were aware of the recent poll results, and that they were terrified that voters would approve the tax extensions.

Such a development would have national implications and clearly could not be allowed to come to pass.

The good news is that California voters seem to be waking up now and have passed out of denial when it comes to how we as a state can restore quality public education and public services.

Common sense dictates that California voters now be asked to reexamine their attitudes concerning how we go about creating a fair tax system to fund our state’s future.

Only then will we have a government that truly serves all Californians.

WILLIE L. PELOTE, Sr./strong>. is an Assistant Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO.