LOS ANGELES — The California gubernatorial race pits former hippie governor Jerry Brown against business maven Meg Whitman. Sparks are flying but it is the absence of substance that now clashes with the search for the loophole. Will the California budget crisis be the candidates’ undoing?
California Budget Cuts
The trip to the governor’s mansion is littered with pitfalls, and California budget cuts are perhaps the most dangerous ones for the candidates. Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman attempt to navigate their paths through the maze of proposals, ideas and posturing that currently make up the landscape of the California budget crisis.
The nuts and bolts of the budget cuts(1) are grim: If the figures of the California Budget Project are correct and will truly transfer into a finalized budget plan, roughly 476,000 disabled and senior citizens stand to lose in-home supportive services. The workers who would be charged with administering whatever is left of the program would see wages slashed to $8.60 per hour.
Bear in mind that just last year Los Angeles city employees were discovered to be guzzling bottled water to the tune of $184,000(2) – taxpayer funded. Other California budget cuts include SSI payment reductions to about 950,000 residents and a planned underfunding of the Healthy Families Program that could leave roughly one million children without health care coverage and benefits.
Not surprisingly, voters view the California gubernatorial race as a proving ground for the ex-hippie and ex-CEO; how will they deal with the California budget crisis and what’s in it for the voter?
Little More than Paper Tigers?
Love him or hate him, but Jerry Brown has a name recognition that is sure to eclipse plenty of Meg Whitman money. Even so, Rasmussen(3) reported on June 10th that out of 500 likely voters, only 45 percent would cast a ballot for Jerry Brown while 44 percent considered placing the ink dot next to Meg Whitman’s name.
While both candidates strive to capture the votes of the undecided – about seven percent – and perhaps also woo some of those who are thinking of supporting another candidate (roughly four percent), this gubernatorial race is going to heat up with both sides likely losing supporters over the state’s budget crisis.
Jerry Brown Fails to Plan (or plans to fail?)
Jerry Brown attempts to convince CNBC that “the process is the plan(4)” when pressed for a tangible solution to the California budget crisis. In other words, rather than laying out a platform with words he may later come to regret, gubernatorial-hopeful Brown envisions taking individual budget line items to the voters to let them decide what to keep, cut and which are worthy of raised taxes.
As a California voter, who has ever spent many an afternoon reading through a thick booklet of ballot measures and separating the grammatical wheat from the rhetorical chaff, this sounds like an easy way out that is not only devoid of substance but also likely to fail. Adding insult to injury, the recent attempts at levying new taxes on homeowners who are already upside down in their homes does not sit well with an electorate that is told that the plan is non-existent but instead presents a journey unto itself.
Meg Whitman Caves
Meg Whitman is not making friends either. Although previously a darling of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association(5) for her ‘no new taxes’ stand, the L.A. Times(6) now quotes her as considering “increasing taxes after a natural disaster.” Granted, L.A. doesn’t have hurricanes or major flooding, but we do sit on a major earthquake fault. If Northridge repeats itself, will my tax bill go up?
Truth be told, there is a precedent for temporarily raising taxes in the wake of an earthquake – namely the Loma Prieta earthquake – however it is the willingness of a previously staunch anti-tax candidate to consider this act that makes it newsworthy. It also makes Meg Whitman look like Arnold Schwarzenegger: a lot of talk, a lot of plans and good intentions – but ultimately a political outsider mired in a legislature-created quagmire without hope of disentanglement.
As a political junkie and faithful California voter I cannot help but wonder if the California gubernatorial race comes down to the choice of bad and worse: the union-funded political insider, who could take on the legislature but likely won’t, and the business-funded political outsider, who valiantly fights windmills but won’t be able to accomplish any of her grander plans.