California is facing its “day of reckoning,” according to Governor Jerry Brown, who recently released his revised budget proposal, revealing a deficit of $15.7 billion. In his May 14th statement, the Governor said that the budget deficit has increased by $7 billion since his original projections in January due to revenues being less than expected.
The Governor is proposing balancing the budget through moving all state employees to a 4-day workweek (5% paycut), as well as slashing $1.2 billion from MediCal, 7% from In-Home Supportive Services and over $2 billion from education. It would also bar colleges that don’t meet achievement requirements from participating in the CalGrant program.
This year is no exception in the on-going budget crisis that threatens the very root of the California Dream. As we see more people moving from bank lines to unemployment lines, from grocery store lines to food bank lines, it is clear that we have reached a critical stage where cutting alone will never solve our budget problems.
The Governor’s proposal relies on the passage of the “Restore California” revenue measure that emerged as a result of the merger between the Millionaires Tax and Brown’s original, more regressive proposal. As Anthony Thigpenn from California Calls reports, the good news is that
“over the course of the last 6 weeks there was a massive effort by over 60 labor unions, community-based organizations, state legislators, and the governor to collect the 807,643 valid signatures to qualify the new merged revenue measure. On Wednesday May 9th the first batch of 1,470,000 collected signatures were submitted to county registrars across the state. There was an unprecedented 261,397 signatures collected from all the various volunteer efforts. Our coalition effort collected 20,219 signatures from 34 participating organizations, from volunteers and grassroots leaders who swarmed churches, stood in front of stores, rushed conferences & rallies and pressed other parents to round-up signatures from all over the state.”
It’s essential that this measure gets passed come November, and Oakland Rising is preparing to turn out 10,000 new and occassional voters from low-income, immigrant, communities of color to support this initiative. The Oakland Tribune reports, “If voters don’t agree to higher taxes, K-12 and community colleges would be cut by about $5.5 billion, possibly reducing the school year by a combined total of 15 days in 2012-13 and 2013-14. The state would not pay off $2.8 billion owed to schools. And cuts to K-12 programs would amount to $2.4 billion, or more than $400 per student.”
However, continuing to increase taxes on everyday families that are already stretched thin and suffering from the results of state resources being slashed to the bone is not a sustainable solution. We need to get serious about corporate property tax reform. Currently the average homeowner pays $2.50 per square foot in property taxes, while the average land-owning corporation pays just $0.50 cents per square foot, thanks to the passage of Prop 13 back in 1978. That’s unfair and inequitable.
As we gear up to turn out voters in November in support of the merged revenue initiative that we worked so hard to get on the ballot, we also need to start rallying our troops to gear up for the real battle ahead of us – corporate property tax reform. It’s exciting that we have been able to leverage the collective power of our community organizations and allies in labor to move the Governor to the left on the revenue measure, and now we need to continue to show our power to set us up for the big systemic fight ahead of us.
By: Jessamyn Sabbag, Deputy Director