The California state budget is 79 days late. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) has declared a state of fiscal emergency and ordered cuts in pay for millions of innocent state workers. State Controller John Chiang (D-CA) took a courageous stand and refused to comply with the governor's orders. The legislature - which is Democratically controlled but requires a 2/3rds vote to pass anything money related - has been hamstrung with Republican opposition to the Republican governor's own original budget. Finally, they approved a bad budget that gives way to deep spending cuts instead of asking the state's wealthy to pay their fair share. They approved a bad budget, but probably the only one they could get through. Gov. Schwarzenegger has now announced that he will veto the budget. Here's his announcement: Part I: And, Part II: Now of course, vetoing a budget is kind of meaningless, since it takes the same two-thirds vote to override the veto as it takes to pass the budget in the first place. And sure enough, legislative leaders from both parties have said they plan to do just that. And the governor has in turn threatened to veto hundreds of other bills and derail the legislature's agenda. But I have to provide the governor some cover, even as a Democrat. He has some solid, principled, valid points. If you haven't listened carefully to Part II, please do so now. He is opposed to the rainy day fund that's being set up being used for any purpose anytime. And he's right. Rainy day funds should only be used in crisis situations, and then only to cover what is absolutely necessary (like public safety, education, hospitals), not in lieu of hard choices that should be made (like some hard cuts or some tax increases). He also wants to stop kicking the can down the road. I'm not saying I support the veto, and as a matter of fact I do not; I am saying he's got some valid points. The Democratic leaders have a good point too: if the Republican governor could deliver some Republican votes on his own budget, this crisis might well have been averted. Indeed, it possibly would have been. We need a big overhaul of our budget system in California. First thing, and I am probably going to anger some on the left by saying this, get rid of autopilots of the budget while you build a rainy day fund. Get rid of these automatic formulas that make spending go up no matter what happens with respect to revenue. Make central priorities: public safety, education and health care, but no damned automatic increase formulas. Make the legislature and the governor we elect do their damn jobs. Then, figure out a fairer taxation system that shifts a greater burden to the wealthy. And finally, get rid of this insane 2/3rds requirement to pass a damn budget. And even more finally, pass a meaningful balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the state that mandates that the legislators, the governor and cabinet officials (a) cannot take days off once the budget is overdue until it actually passes, (b) are not paid until the budget passes once it's overdue and (c) can't borrow money from next fiscal year's revenue to pay for this year's expenses. Please, get over whatever your ideological hangover over the budget is and become a pragmatist. We are going to have to fix this mess, and ideologues have no place in doing that.
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