No wonder we didn't hear much from Jerry Brown between the time he got elected governor -- again -- and the time he took office. He was apparently busy preparing the feel-bad budget of all time.
Among the horrors: the state welfare program would suffer a fifty percent cut; home care for the disabled and the elderly would be greatly curtailed, if not, for some, eliminated; and, what is left of California's once proud university system would face another round of cuts, to the tune of some one billion dollars.
In making his budget plans known, Brown called it "honest," and added, "We've had 10 years of gimmicks and tricks. All of that puts us in a mess... It is better to take our medicine now and get the state on a balanced footing."
But there is more than just draconian cutting in the governor's proposed budget. Keeping his campaign pledge to take any proposed tax hikes directly to the people for a vote, Brown says he will ask the legislature to call for a special election in June so Californians can decide whether they wish to extend some nine billion dollars in higher taxes that are set to expire the end of that month for another five years.
That means five more years, if approved, of higher taxes for sales, income and vehicles.
If this sounds familiar, it is: former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger asked voters to approve a two year extension of the taxes, and voters, in effect, told him to put his ballot initiative firmly where even the California sun never shines.
There is even a scheme in the proposed budget to transfer some state functions to local authorities -- giving them the money that is hoped to be raised by the extended tax hikes.
Some local officials are already voicing concern about this one.
Of course, Brown, just like Arnold, finds himself -- not to mention the state -- in an impossible situation.
And, years of accounting tricks by both Schwarzenegger and the legislature have led to the fiscal disaster the state now finds itself in -- a disaster made much worse by the weak condition of the U.S. economy.
Still, when Brown, and others, talk about "shared sacrifice," who are they kidding?
The budget ax, as it always seems to do, falls heavily on those least able to defend themselves -- the sick, the homeless, the elderly and the students.
A budget can be both "honest" and mean-spirited at the same time. This proposed budget is that.
Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24 Hour News Cycle." He has covered police and politics in L.A. since 1995 and is a regular contributor of investigative reports to KNX1070 Newsradio.
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