It’s a phenomenon some of us have experienced: Loved ones call in the dead of winter saying they need money because their heat is about to be turned off. Of course we agree this cannot happen and set off to wire the money. On the way to the bank we realize that we’re not paying for the heat; we’re really paying for whatever that person bought with the money that was supposed to go toward the heating bill. Afraid to ask for money for a new television, our friend instead presented us with a very sympathetic emergency.
This may be tolerated from our loved ones, but when billions are at stake, it’s a very different story.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest budget is full of trigger cuts to education that will occur if his income and sales tax initiative doesn’t pass in November. By basically saying, “Approve my taxes or I’ll take money away from the children,” he’s creating a sympathetic emergency and hoping we don’t consider why we have a $15.7 billion deficit in the first place. (Hint: It’s not the schools.)
“But Mel,” you might say, “he’s proposing cuts to education if there aren’t new taxes for education. That makes sense.” Not so fast.
Brown’s tax measure — sometimes inaccurately called the Millionaires’ Tax — is supposed to bring in $8.5 billion, $2.9 billion of which will go toward a $10.4 billion debt the state owes to education funding. It won’t directly pay for new programs, teachers or schools. The other $5.58 billion would go to the general fund, where it could be spent on anything, which may or may not include education.
If the tax measure doesn’t pass, Brown’s budget proposal would trigger $6.1 billion in cuts, $5.5 billion of which would be directed at kindergarten through college education.
To recap, we’re being asked for more taxes so the state can pay down $2.9 billion in education debt (and have $5.58 billion more to play with) or lose $5.5 billion in education funding. If you think that sounds like extortion, you’re not alone. A May 15 Standard & Poor’s analysis of the governor’s budget acknowledged, “the trigger cuts will be designed to mitigate the potential for voters to reject the governor’s tax initiative.” Translation: the purpose of the trigger cuts is to force voters to endorse the tax measure. They are not the natural result of the tax measure failing.
Californians care about education, but we do not appreciate being treated with rank manipulation. Keeping these education trigger cuts in the budget may even backfire.
Hackarrrrrrs unite! According to a recent memorandum by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the “California Pirate Party” has submitted its intent to qualify as a political party.
Promoting the principals of transparency, unrestricted Internet and a disdain for copyright laws, Pirate Party candidates have enjoyed success in Germany, and now the party has apparently dropped anchor here.
Choosing to file in California is a particularly bold move because, while Hollywood may love to make money by pumping out pirate pictures, its studios are fierce when it comes to anti-piracy laws. An entreprising Hollywood-type is probably copyrighting “The Pirate Party” right now and will be selling merchandise before November’s election.
Welcome to the Golden State, mateys.
Melissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.