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Willie L. Pelote: Special election II flops; battle for the budget begins anew

SCV Voices

Posted: May 23, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: May 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Now that California voters have handed Arnold Schwarzenegger and his cadre of special interests another resounding special-election defeat, proponents of public services, fiscal responsibility, child care and mental health programs are gearing up for the battle over the 2010 state budget.

Schwarzenegger has threatened deep cuts, but a majority of voters throughout California oppose cuts to public services such as roads, public transportation, environmental regulation, water storage, programs for the disabled, mental health programs, child care, public schools, health care and higher education.

This, according to a poll of registered voters taken between April 16 and April 26.

The same poll also found that voters favor cuts to the state's prison-industrial complex and would support higher taxes on the wealthy and specific industries like oil, tobacco and alcohol.

These findings offer a working blueprint for a progressive state budget in 2010.

State spending on prisons should be cut, and Schwarzenegger's November 2008 proposal to enact an alcohol tax, oil severance tax and a sales tax on services such as amusement parks and entertainment and sporting events should be revived.

Independent analysis by the California Tax Reform Association has also shown that it would be possible to immediately raise $13 billion by: (1) restoring the state's high income and corporate tax brackets to their levels under Republican Governors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson and by (2) instituting a tax on carbon dioxide pollution.

That would shore up about two-thirds of the $20 billion budget shortfall that analysts say California now faces.

The remaining $7 billion or so can be obtained through the aforementioned cuts to prison spending and higher taxes on oil companies, alcohol and tobacco producers and professional sports teams, the same special interests that bankrolled the May 19 special election ballot measures in order to avoid industry taxes that could help to balance the budget, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Willie L. Pelote Sr. is assistant director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, the largest public-sector union in the country. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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