California passes largest-ever budget package

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

California passes largest-ever budget packageAmid Republican objections to the content and the process, California lawmakers passed the state’s largest-ever budget last week by approving a $183.2-billion package that conservatives say will increase costs without providing an equitable boost in services to the average citizen.

The new budget includes provisions for additional education funding, greater state control over California’s university system and an expansion of social programs. However, conservatives note that the state has continued to shift funds promised to education, infrastructure and health care into special projects.

Republicans further claim that, in addition to the absence of public transparency and accessibility, the plan gives no consideration to the increasing tax and regulatory burdens on the working middle class.

“The legislature passed a budget that spends too much to be sustainable, taxes Californians too much to be affordable and ignores too many issues important to voters,” said State Sen. Jean Fuller.

“Portions of this budget are reasonable, which include middle-class scholarships for students struggling to afford college, increased support for K-12 education, new resources for homeless youth housing and services and increasing funds for veterans’ resources centers at community colleges.”

However, she added, the budget “ignores voter support for healthcare access, diverts recently enacted transportation taxes to non-transportation projects and creates a budget item to influence a political election. For those reasons, and others, I cannot support it.”

“This budget is a laundry list of broken promises as it continues to divert dollars promised to go to education, roads and MediCal,” said Assemblymember Vince Fong.

“The Democrat-led legislature also snuck in new election rules thwarting direct democracy when there is a recall election, which is not only undemocratic but a blatant power grab to shift power away from the people to Sacramento.

“The budget epitomizes why Sacramento is broken and in dire need of accountability and transparency.

“Moving forward, we must demand real budget transparency by having our entire budget be put online, line item by line item, so the public can see how tax dollars are being spent so Sacramento is held accountable.”

Fong has partnered with neighboring legislators Jay Obernolte of Big Bear and Tom Lackey of Palmdale to spearhead an initiative to follow suit with other states that have delivered increased transparency and accessibility to the public. (See related editorial, Page 4.)

Cries continue from a grassroots level that working-class residents will not be able to keep up with the associated costs of California bureaucracy that are being passed along to them.

“The budget broadly ignores the underlying uncertainty of our small-business economic engine with record spending and zero budget reforms or transparency,” said Shawn Lewis of the National Federation of Independent Business in California.

“Small-business owners and all taxpayers continue to pay more but get less in return. Most recently, Sacramento treated working families like ATMs by raising their gas and car taxes, yet we see little, if any, new spending to expand or build new roads.”

He noted that the latest budget continues to increase the burden on small-business owners, who have no recourse to fight back.

“It is very difficult to have faith in this state budget when the process has become completely polluted with trailer bills such as this which have no place in the budget and should instead be discussed in open policy committee proceedings.”

Pictured: Assemblyman Vince Fong fights for transparency at a recent hearing. -- Courtesy screenshot

Story First Published: 2017-06-23