Buchanan talks budget to voters
Explains mix of cuts and tax extensions proposed by Gov. Brown
While Joan Buchanan (D., Alamo) focused on the overall state budget situation and Gov. Brown's combination of budget cuts and tax extensions, many attending her open house Saturday were more concerned about his plan to end local redevelopment funds.
Buchanan gave a broad outline of the state's fiscal problems, starting with how California got into its current troubles, explaining that borrowing gradually increased until the recession, when revenues dropped dramatically and forced a sharp jump in borrowing.
In nine years, from 2002 to 2011, she said debt service -- paying for the borrowing -- has risen nearly 111%, pensions have gone up 90.5%, and prison costs have risen almost 78% while the total money in the state's general fund has only gone up a little over 30%.
Buchanan said Brown's solution of cuts and tax extensions is a realistic one, that doesn't "kick the can down the road."
"The governor is not using inflated federal dollars," she told the crowd of about 40 who came to see her. "He's not pushing payments back."
She acknowledged that getting the tax extension measure -- a five-year extension of higher vehicle license fees, sales taxes, and personal income taxes, and also eliminating dependent exemptions -- has been a tough sell to legislators, who were set to vote on the measure Wednesday.
But, Buchanan said, "The governor has said he's prepared to make an all-cuts budget" if the measure doesn't pass the legislature or a popular vote, currently set for May.
The event, at the Livermore Library, was sponsored by Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee, and for the most part, Buchanan was speaking to the choir when it came to keeping the tax extensions in place for another five years. That wasn't the case when the discussion turned toward redevelopment funds -- money normally used by cities for areas that need improvement -- and the governor's plan to use that money to help balance the state budget.
Redevelopment funds have become an issue recently after misuse of the money for pet projects like a mermaid bar in Sacramento, but voters approved a measure last year, Proposition 22, that was supposed to keep that money local. Brown, however, would keep the money by repealing the law that created the funds.
Many cities are trying to hold on to that money by allocating the funds for projects, essentially tying up the money, which is likely to wind up in court. Most of those in the audience wanted Buchanan to fight that part of Brown's budget, but she said the state needs the money more than cities do, especially when it comes to one of her prime issues, education.
"Education has taken a bigger hit than the rest of the budget," Buchanan told the crowd, adding, "College tuitions are going way up."
She said that California per-pupil spending is $8,908 per student, far less than the national average of $11,397; that classes sizes average to 20.5-to-1 as opposed to the national average of 14.4-to-1; and that many districts have cut librarians, counselors and administrators -- all issues the Pleasanton school district is grappling with.
"The primary mission of the state is education and public safety," Buchanan told the crowd. She asked the group to work to help pass Brown's tax extension, something she said Brown would fight for himself.
"I believe he will campaign for it tirelessly," Buchanan said.