The national recession has put California into fiscal jeopardy. As we work to get the state back on track, my Democratic colleagues and I are committed to protecting the state's safety net and preventing the dismantling of public education. The Governor and legislative Republicans need to be responsible and take that same approach as well.
The Governor's budget and the cuts only approach backed by what I call "Talk Radio Republicans" would simply cause too much harm to education and the safety net.
Listen to some of the people who told their stories to our Budget Committee:
-Â Some of the 27,000 teachers, counselors, nurses and education support professionals who have already received layoff notices.
-Â A 24 year old woman born HIV positive who told us the Governor's proposal will cut her off from lifesaving anti-viral drugs.
-Â A working mother who described her family's fear their health coverage might go away.
-Â A woman needing the assistance of a wheelchair and oxygen who wants to stay out of a nursing facility, but her in-home assistance would be eliminated by the Governor.
-Â A child whose single mother receives CalWorks who told us her family would be homeless without that help.
-Â Young men previously involved with gangs who turned their lives around with the help of CalGrants.
-Â A man celebrating his 3 month anniversary of being clean and sober thanks to state-supported drug treatment.
The budget plan approved by Democrats on the Budget Committee, which the legislature will vote on this week, recognizes that even in these tough times there are ways to avoid destroying education or eliminating the safety net.
California is still the only oil-producing state in the nation that lets oil companies avoid extraction taxes. That's why the Legislature's plan includes a 9.9% oil severance tax - a tax the Governor himself first proposed in January.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products contribute to health care problems and other strains on the state's general fund. That's why we are proposing increasing the state's tobacco tax by $1.50. That helps generate $1 billion in new revenue.
Unfortunately, there will have to be further deep cuts because of the recession- which means state services will have been cut $40 billion since 2003. The $2 billion in new taxes in the Legislature's deficit plan--$2 billion out of a $24 billion solution-pale in comparison.
We need to decide what kind of California we want to be. Do we risk lives by eliminating the safety net? Or do we have tobacco users pay more of their own way? Do we give a break to oil companies or help struggling families? Do we keep building a rainy day fund when we're in the middle of a downpour? I think most of us agree on the answers here. Let's hope the Governor and Republican legislators will as well.