The Schwarzenegger Administration's assertion that the May 19 election results are a mandate to "cut to the bone" has about the same level of credibility as Dick Cheney's "because I said so" defense of U.S. torture tactics.
The more than three out of four people who stayed home on Election Day and the 23% who showed up to the polls carried the same message: they said it's the job of the Governor and the legislature to solve California's budget mess.
While the Governor and his Republican allies have cranked the post-election spin into overdrive with the phony assertion that voters support the annihilation of schools and services for the elderly and people with disabilities, Democratic leaders now have an opportunity to engage the people of California in an honest conversation about what public services we want, how we can pay for them, and what will happen to the Golden State if we don't.
Democrats now have a responsibility to show that they are the majority party because the people of this state know they can do better. They must adopt budget solutions that will have been considered carefully in an open and public process, will ensure that responsibility for funding our public services is broadly shared, and which, if necessary, can be implemented with a majority vote of the legislature.
Being the majority party comes with responsibilities. It means engaging people in the minority party – and if the Republican leaders won't come to the table, it means going directly to their constituents to tell them what their leaders don't want them to know: we simply can't cut any more from services to the vulnerable without costing the lives of frail seniors, children and people with disabilities.
Leadership means holding town halls in every corner of the state to let parents know we can't cut more from our schools without relegating our kids to last-in-the-nation status.
Leadership means raising the revenue needed to stabilize California's budget so we can put Californians back to work building and upgrading our roads, water systems and other critical infrastructure.
Leadership means going directly to city and county officials – Democrat, Republican, and non-partisan, to say there are better options than raiding $2 billion from local services such as fire protection and public safety.
For Democrats, its time to lead or be left behind! We can no longer let an outdated 2/3rds rule continue to be a vice grip around the necks of our kids, grandparents and people with disabilities.
Every year an obstinate minority is allowed to put up roadblocks to a fair budget, the path needed to restore investments in our kids, seniors, and our economic future becomes that much steeper. The responsibility to our children and to California's vulnerable communities means Democrats must consider a majority-vote revenue package if the minority party leaves them no other option.
We are encouraged by indications in recent days that Democratic leaders will consider alternatives to the wholesale elimination of critical services for kids, seniors and people with disabilities. But these statements still leave the scales of fairness sharply unbalanced, with school kids being asked to bear a $10 billion burden, the budget ax still hanging over the heads of our seniors and people with disabilities, yet no plan put forth to change our revenue system to share responsibility for meeting the needs of a growing and aging state. With pressure to make major budget cuts in the next two weeks, legislators need to have before them majority vote options that meet the test of balance that voters laid out on May 19.
We can get California back on the path to progress, but we can't do it by conceding to budget negotiations with only cuts on the table.
Joining us in relaying this message are: Willie L. Pelote, Assistant Political Director, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, , Vern Halterman, President, San Luis Obispo County Employees Association, Al Wozniak, President San Bernardino Public Employees Association, Danette Shipley, President – Executive Director, Organization of Sacramento Municipal Utility District Employees and Tony Alvernaz, President, Santa Rosa City Employees Association, Dave Hart, President. California State Employees Association, Pat Gantt, President of California State University Employees Union, Olin King, President of the Association of California State Supervisors, Roger Marxen, President of the California State Employees Association Retirees, Inc.