A good and useful state budget should provide funds for necessary public services including schools and community colleges, roads, transportation, health and welfare and employment. It should ensure that money is spent effectively for useful programs, and should distribute costs for public programs based on ability to pay. The long overdue, frequently deadlocked California budget that was passed last winter fails on all those counts.
Democrats and Republicans collaborated on $15 billion in budget cuts, including huge cuts in basic services, medical programs, housing and especially education. Necessary programs are being cut from schools and community colleges while teachers and other state employees face lay-offs, forced time off and reduced wages. The prison industrial complex continues to take up a dangerously large percentage of the state budget.
Yet our taxes increased, and legislators once again shifted the tax burden to those who can least afford it. The increased sales tax, vehicle registration fees, user fees for more public services, and reduction of the tax credit for children add up to increased financial burden for single parents, students, and working families. Meanwhile, corporations and the rich are paying way less than they should.
There are solutions to California's budget crisis. Some of the real solutions proposed by the Peace and Freedom Party include these measures:
- First of all, eliminate the undemocratic 2/3 vote requirement for budget and finance votes in the Legislature.
- Next, end California's addiction to bond measures as a means of financing public programs. Bonds set off a generations-long chain of debt for working families
- End property taxes on modest owner-occupied homes and tax corporate property at current market value.
- Enact an oil severance tax, as several other states have already done. Raise income taxes on the most prosperous 5% of the population.
- Lower sales taxes, eventually phasing them out. Enact an emergency 5% capital tax on the richest 1% of Californians.
- Reform the onerous Three Strikes law and release non-violent drug offenders and others serving out excessive sentences. Transfer a portion of the prison budget to education.
- Enact a universal single-payer health care plan. Eliminate the profit-driven insurance companies from health care to provide better care at less cost, as most other industrialized countries have already done.
Cindy Varela Henderson is an activist in Communications Workers of America, and is a former Peace and Freedom Party South State Chair and Los Angeles County Chair. She is a candidate for State Senate 26th District in the Special Runoff Election on May 19.