A horrible, no-good deal was struck to pass California’s budget Thursday morning. Here’s what it looks like, courtesy intrepid Calitics reporter David Dayen:
• He [GOP holdout Abel Maldonado] got his open primary legislation on the ballot, but not until June 2010. Arnold was interested in it, and so it was likely to get on that ballot anyway. This won’t help Maldo in 2010, which was probably a condition of the deal. Considering that it affects Congressional races as well as legislative ones, I expect Nancy Pelosi to go all in trying to defeat and I don’t expect it to pass. Open primaries have lost on the ballot in the past.
• The constitutional amendment banning legislative pay increases during deficit years passed; the amendment cutting all legislative pay during a late budget failed.
• The 12-cent gas tax increase was cut, replaced with a slight increase to the state income tax, federal stimulus money (which was always going to fill in because it was more than budgeted for) and $600 million in unspecified line-item vetoes from the Governor, which are going to be ugly. Let’s just say that the huge corporate tax cut is not the first place Arnold’s going to look.
Now, that’s what Maldonado got. Among the other goodies in this budget, besides the corporate tax cuts and the privatization of state highway projects and the rest, are:
• A $10,000 tax credit for homebuyers, but only if they buy new construction. So a "developer bailout" when there is all kinds of existing inventory sitting on the market and lowering property values inside communities. And now there’s an incentive for them to stay there. Great.
• Large commercial vehicles are exempt from the increase in vehicle license fees, because… gee, I have no idea. This is perverse, the opposite of what we should be taxing, which are inefficient vehicles.
• Rental car companies can pass VLF increases on to customers, which they probably would have done anyway, but this makes it even easier.
• One provision allows for the delay of retrofitting of heavy diesel equipment, which will maintain poor air pollution in at-risk communities, and let’s face it, kill people. Don’t believe me, take it from the Chairman of the Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols: "There are people who will die because of this delay."
Great commentary from Calitics’ Brian Leubitz here.
Nancy Pelosi isn’t going to like this part; Congressional Democrats will probably work to defeat it in 2010, but it was part of the deal Senator Maldonado insisted on in order to vote AYE:
But no matter how much you blame him for the state’s budget mess, you have to hand it to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He helped engineer the final deal, and got something he wanted in the process — a 2010 ballot measure for an open primary.
It’s hard to overstate what a radical change this could be for congressional and legislative races in California. If it passed, candidates for all parties would run against each other in the primary, with the top-two vote getters moving on to a runoff. That would open up chances for the Green Party to win in the Bay Area and Libertarians to win in conservative districts. It could rewrite the political map in our wacky state in ways we can’t even imagine.
Here’s where political reality set in. Members of Congress and the major parties are sure to attack the open primary proposal with everything they’ve got. It will be epic. Schwarzenegger and good government groups will rally behind it, but they’ll need major bucks to counter the money spent against it. In all likelihood, they’ll kill the measure and Maldo will be left out in the cold, a man without a party.
Higher taxes on regular folks, a lifeline for GOP "moderates" and lower taxes for corporations. This is what you get when a recalcitrant and destructive minority holds a state budget hostage.
UPDATE: A peek at the hideous sausage-making:
The Legislature began voting at 3:40 a.m. on a package of 33 bills to close a $41 billion budget deficit through June 2010 – a record shortfall resulting from a faltering state economy and the collapse of the housing and banking markets. By 6:55 a.m., both houses of the Legislature had passed the plan.
"I’m absolutely delighted about the budget passing and the great job the Legislature has done," said Schwarzenegger moments after the vote. "This is a historic budget."
The governor is expected to sign the bills Friday.
UPDATE 2: Arnold, ever the windmill-tilter for the common people of California, rails irrelevantly against ‘special interests’ in his budget message:
The votes came after what Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said was, at 45 1/2 hours, the single longest Senate floor session in California history.
Schwarzenegger applauded legislators as having the "courage to stand up and put the needs of Californians first."
"This is a very difficult budget, but we have turned this crisis into an opportunity to make real, lasting reforms for Californians," he said in a written statement. "Some special interests may not like this budget — but like I always say, what’s good for the people is not always good for special interests."