Apparently, you ain't nothing in California budget politics if you ain't on the road talking about California budget politics. At least this week.
After three months of closed-door Sacramento negotiations that didn't produce a budget compromise, the parties are now taking it to the streets.
Gov. Jerry Brown is appearing Friday at an elementary school in Riverside, part of the Democratic governor's efforts to visit Republican areas of California and convince voters there to back his bid for a special election on extending temporary tax increases. Democratic legislators are about to begin budget hearings around the state. And the California Republican Party's leaders are countering with a series of events over the next several weeks.
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Of course, these budget road warriors share a problem: they have nothing new or fresh to say. Brown is going to talk about all the terrible cuts he'll be forced to make without tax extensions (Call it the "I've Got This Gun Pointed at the State's Future--Don't Make Me Pull the Trigger" Tour). He'll also blast Republicans for not agreeing to support at least a public vote on the temporary tax extensions. (The governor says this makes him a champion of democracy, even though he didn't permit votes on tax cuts, and he's not proposing to give Californians who know the state is broken a chance to vote on constitutional and other reforms). The legislative Democrats will make many of these same points, though probably not as artfully.
And Republicans, for their part, will continue their dodge: they won't vote for taxes, they won't vote to give people a chance to vote on taxes -- and they won't vote for cuts. They'll talk about the terrible job situation and say that Brown and the Democrats aren't doing anything about it. Of course, neither are they.
My advice: skip these rallies and partcipate instead in any one of a number of productive statewide discussions about how to build a better governing system that won't leave us stuck in perpetual budget crisis. One of these is ongoing--it's the Speak Up California series run by the foundation-backed good government group California Forward. A handy list of these and similar events is here.