What thrilling opening words, in California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's State of the State speech on Jan. 6. But 48 hours later, on Jan. 8, we get the real deal in store for California jobs, via the governor's 2010-11 budget proposals.
For example, the jobs of 380,000 home care providers will end, if In-Home Supportive Services is eliminated, as the governor threatens if federal funds don't come through. IHSS, the safety net for some 450,000 poor and ill seniors and the disabled, allows them to live safely in their own homes. Institutional care would cost four to five times as much.
Many other human services cuts are threatened. Among them: elimination of the CalWORKS welfare to work program and the Healthy Families children's health care program, and cuts to Medi-Cal (California's Medicaid program) - all of which would result in lost jobs. And state employees face a proposed 5 percent reduction in their pay. Though in his State of the State speech the governor promised no more cuts to education, two days later he proposed $2 billion in cuts to K-12 spending.
"Many of our poor, elderly and most vulnerable people will not survive this budget," said state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. State Senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, exclaimed, "You've got to be kidding!" Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, characterized the governor's proposals as "a pile of denial."
Democrats generally rejected the program; Republicans supported it.
How can the continuing tragedy of California's financial crisis be avoided? How could it have been avoided in the first place? With a $19.9 billion deficit facing us, where do we find the money? The California Tax Reform Association has a few proposals in its "Revenues for the Budget Crisis." Let's take a look:
* Enact an oil severance tax. California is the only oil-producing location in the world that does not tax oil extraction - $1.2 billion.
* Eliminate existing corporate tax loopholes - $1 billion. In addition, recent budget agreements secretly slipped in additional tax loopholes for the state's biggest corporations, slated to take effect in 2011. Eliminating these before they take effect would save another $2.5 billion.
* Broaden the sales tax to include services such as entertainment, professional sports, hotels, golf, skiing etc. - $2 billion. Add a sales tax on telecommunications, cable and satellite - $2 billion or more. (Taxing online and mail-order purchases would bring in further billions; the exact amount has not been estimated.)
* Reinstate the state's top income tax bracket of 11 percent - $4 billion growing to $6 billion. (And if that sounds like too much for the wealthy to bear, remember the top 1 percent of California income recipients take 25 percent of the income.)
* Close property tax loopholes such as failing to reassess the market value of property following an ownership change - $2 billion.
* Increase the alcohol and tobacco tax - $2.4 billion.
* Maintain the vehicle license fee at 1 percent - $1.3 billion.
* Improve tax collection - $2 billion.
Others have proposed adding "green taxes." A carbon permit fee could bring in $2.5 billion, and pollution fees on a variety of air and water emissions, $1.4 billion.
So, what becomes obvious is the complete insanity of the diehard conservatives - mostly Republicans - who are willing to let the elderly, the disabled and the children die, while they themselves do nothing but scream, "No new taxes!"
Photo: PW/Marilyn Bechtel