Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Senator Tom Torlakson

BREAKING NEWS: The following update about the state budget situation was drafted before Governor Schwarzenegger announced his intention to veto the budget package. In the interest of keeping you informed about the state budget process, Senator Torlakson still wanted to send this statement to you for your review.
Senator Torlakson watched the Governor's press conference today. He is continuing his efforts to find a solution to the state budget debate, and looks forward to working with his colleagues to seek a resolution in the coming days.

September 16, 2008
1:30 p.m. (emailed @ 8:25:59 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time)

Dear Friend:

The California State Senate and State Assembly early this morning passed the 2008-09 state budget by the necessary two-thirds vote margins in the Assembly and Senate. The Legislature then sent the package of the bills to Governor Schwarzenegger for his signature.

This budget includes nearly $10 billion in budget cuts and various one-time revenue accelerations to close the remaining budget gap. This budget does not include any borrowing from Proposition 1A (2006) local government or Proposition 42 (2002)/Proposition 1A (2006) transportation funds. It also restores many of the most severe cuts proposed by the Governor and Senate Republicans. (Click here to see more of these budget details.)

But make no mistake: this compromise fails to address our long-term budget problems. Because of my concerns about our state's ability to fund our schools in the future, I voted against the part of the budget plan (AB 1452) that replaced the on-going revenues I believe are so necessary with one-time revenues and the creation of vast new loopholes in corporation taxes. These loopholes will reduce by $1 billion or more annually the amount of money our state will have in the future to fund our education system, health care needs, and public safety.

We have once again failed to find a fiscally responsible solution to our state's ongoing structural deficit. The Legislature also failed to find the ongoing revenue needed to fully fund our schools or give our children the healthcare and other supports they need to succeed.

One reason it was important to pass a budget was to end the horrible impacts created by the delay in payments to our schools, small business owners supplying health care and food to state institutions, providers of homes for people with developmental disabilities, child care providers, students who rely on CalGrants, and senior day care center operators.

Because of the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget, the Republicans were able to command key elements of this budget deal. This fact severely limited the opportunity to find balanced and long-term solutions to our ongoing budget problems. Preserving a minimum foundation for our education system and vital social services was the best we could do under these circumstances.

But I must ask: is the "bare minimum" now the best for which we can hope? Must we settle for funding our schools with less money per pupil than 46 other states? Will we accept ranking 46th in the nation in eighth grade math achievement, 44th in eighth grade science achievement, and 49th in eighth grade reading achievement? Do we serve our students by ranking 49th in student-teacher ratio, 51st in librarians and guidance counselors per pupil? Is allowing nearly 800,000 children to go without health insurance really acceptable?

I deeply regret that it does not include the restorations of even a dime from the $12 billion in annual tax cuts enacted over the past 15 years. Democrats fought this year for an ongoing revenue source -- but the Governor could not get the necessary Republican votes even for his own modest revenue plan.

This year's debate over the state budget once again highlights the need for significant reforms to our state budget process. I will be working diligently to return democracy to the budget process by promoting my legislation (SCA 22) to eliminate the two-thirds vote requirement. This reform is as important today as it was when I first proposed it ten years ago (ACA 26, 1998).

The only way to fully fund our schools -- to provide the additional $15-24 billion a year recent analyses say our public education system requires -- is to reverse some of the tax cuts imprudently passed over the past 15 years.

California will not remain a vibrant economy, and a great place to live, unless we begin to invest once again in our public education system. We must figure out how to give our students the tools and skills they need to live up to our positive aspirations and their dreams. We must restore the promise of our state's education master plan.

That is our challenge in the wake of this year's state budget debate. I hope you will join me in this effort in the coming weeks and months.


Tom Torlakson

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