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California nears budget deal to meet deadline. Critics pan it as 'gimmicks.'

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“It looks like Gov. Brown's middle name will not be ‘no gimmicks,’ " says Jessica Levinson, political reform director for the Center for Governmental Studies. “While Brown has for months and months pledged to pass a gimmick-free budget, he appears to be peddling back that hard line as the constitutional deadline for a balanced budget approaches."

The spending plan that took shape Wednesday would tax purchases from online outlets such as Amazon.com, bump up car registration fees and local sales tax rates, and tack a new fee on residents in fire zones. The measure would also cut more deeply into higher education, public safety, and the courts. And it would defer billions of dollars in bill payments and revive a disputed plan to sell state buildings that was abandoned months ago because it was deemed too expensive.

“While [Prop. 25] punishes legislators – by not paying them – for failing to agree on a budget, does it also force them to hastily rush to compromise?” Ms. Levinson asks.

Other analysts answer that question, “yes.”

“On the one hand, lawmakers don't want to vote for pain. On the other hand, they want to keep their own paychecks. Their solution to this dilemma is to engage in the same kind of tricks that they've always used,” says Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Republicans have dug in their heels for months, refusing to give Brown the four legislative votes he needs to put a tax-extension question before voters, another major campaign promise. Brown had touted that tax extension as the way to eliminate roughly half of the California budget deficit. The other half was addressed earlier this year when Brown signed $11.2 billion in cuts.

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