With the prospect of a $16 billion budget shortfall facing the state, Governor Jerry Brown has pinned a large part of his budget balancing strategy on increasing state revenues through his proposed short-term tax increase on the wealthiest Californians and short-term 0.25% (that’s a quarter of one percent, not 25 percent) increase in the state sales tax. We thought we’d review the positions of the top three candidates in the 69th Assembly contest on the Governor’s proposed tax increases.
“We can’t fill a hole of this magnitude with cuts alone without doing severe damage to our schools,” Brown said on Saturday. “That’s why I’m bypassing the the gridlock and asking you, the people of California, to approve a plan that avoids cuts to schools and public safety.”
The Orange County Register asked the candidates three questions in a survey for their Orange County Voter Guide.
How would you solve the state’s chronic budget problems?
Michele Martinez said:
“California’s budget must be reformed. We need to start with accountability and revenue standards that will identify what is working and eliminate wasteful government spending. I support performance-based budgeting that will provide clear goals and performance measures for state programs. I also support steps to aggressively grow our economy and create new jobs, which will be a source for new and stable revenues that can be invested in keeping our schools and neighborhoods safe.”
Tom Daly said:
“The Legislature must stop opening new tax loopholes. In the last 20 years, those loopholes have caused a permanent loss of $112 billion. Second, after the latest court system computer fiasco, where a $300 million project ballooned to a $3 billion mess, the state must reconsider its own competence to do this work. California has spent more money on what doesn’t work than the combined start-up costs of Google, Apple and eBay.”
Julio Perez said:
“We are not going to balance the state budget tomorrow – it is going to take hard work. There are steps we can take to bridge the gap between what we’re spending and what we’re taking in. We can broaden our tax base to protect it from our boom and bust economy, close loopholes to force corporations to pay their fair share. What I won’t do is punish working families for the state’s budget shortfalls.”
Martinez and Daly are advocating a budget balancing approach focused entirely on cuts to existing programs. Neither one says anything about increasing revenues. Perez focuses on a balanced approach that cuts existing loopholes, and broadens the tax base in addition to cuts. Martinez thinks performance based budgeting will work in an assembly district where schools in Santa Ana are consistently at the bottom; the “eliminate wasteful government spending” sounds like Martinez is channeling her inner Republican. It’s also hard to see how a cuts only solution is going to not hit working families that Daly hopes to protect.
What is your stance on Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to raise taxes?
Michele Martinez said:
“Raising taxes at the State level is not going to solve our problems and I don’t believe the Governor’s ballot measure is the right long term solution. We need to reform our budgeting process to eliminate wasteful government spending and bring increased accountability to state programs. Our schools can’t afford another round of funding cuts and we need to work to make sure more money is directly invested in our classrooms.”
Tom Daly said:
“I will be voting “No”. I cannot support higher taxes as long as I see money being wasted. I cannot justify raising the sales tax on life’s necessities, while millions of persons are either out of work or working part-time. It isn’t fair, and ultimately won’t solve anything.”
Julio Perez said:
“Governor Brown began his term cutting budgets, eliminating cars for legislators, getting rid of cell phones and saving costs. He has made significant cuts. Now he needs to raise more revenue to balance our state budget. Let’s go to the ballot box to see if the people of California agree. His plan will fund essential state services during this difficult economic time and safeguard our schools from further devastating cuts. I plan on voting Yes.”
Again, we have both Martinez saying clearly that they oppose Governor Brown’s proposed short-term increase in state revenues to address the current shortfalls, while Perez makes the point that without an increase in revenue schools will suffer even more devastating cuts.
Martinez and Daly talked about funding for education when they were asked; Besides the state budget, what is the single most pressing issue facing the state of California today?
“We need to keep our kids safe and make sure they have a good start in life,” Martinez told the Register. “I am running for Assembly to stop cuts to education funding, reduce the size of school bureaucracy so more money goes directly into the classroom, expand access to anti-gang programs in local schools and increase prison terms for sex offenders.”
“The state is forcing students out of what was once California’s greatest asset, our community colleges and state universities,” Daly said. “We must move aggressively to lower the cost of college textbooks – many now cost more than the fees to take a class – and we can do it by bringing textbooks into the digital era where they are nearly free. I will pursue initiatives like this, and restore the promise that once was the great California Promise.”
“Apart from the budget crisis, the biggest challenge facing California is the state’s high unemployment rate. As the economy recovers, we need to be ready. If elected, my top priority will be to create and protect good-paying jobs today, while preparing our children to compete for the jobs of tomorrow. I have fought my entire career for working families, and on behalf of the people of this district, I will continue that fight in Sacramento.”
We’ll have to note all three candidates are “for creating good high paying jobs,” but not a single candidate has offered a specific plan to do that. I’m sure they’re all for puppies and ice cream sundaes too. No where in any of the answers provided to any of the questions the Register posed has any of these candidates said how they plan to close the budget gap. Saying you’ll work to cut wasteful goverment spending is hollow without identifying a program that represents wasteful government spending. So specifically, what do Martinez, Daly and Perez propose cutting.