I spent the day speaking with Bay Area lawmakers about Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, and as always, there was a lot more than could fit into the story filed for the print editions.
“Democrats elected Jerry Brown and part of why we elected him is because of his leadership, the fact that he’s been there and done that and now has the courage to tell the voters the real deal and make those cuts, even in the face of opposition from our traditional allies and friends,” said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, predicting that while some details might be dickered over, Brown’s overall plan won’t see much opposition from legislative Democrats.
As for legislative Republicans, she said, they’ve never presented a full budget plan of their own: “They have not been part of the solution… They’ve just been saying ‘no, no, no.’”
Voters will have to see past ideology and idealism this year, she said. “We just explain the reality: We have 33 cents in our pocket yet we want to go buy the toy that costs a dollar and we’ve maxed out all our credit cards – well, that’s not going to work anymore.”
Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, said she already has been telling her constituents they can’t both expect lowered taxes and full, quality state services, and has found “people are very receptive in terms of knowing someone understands the problem and is honest with them.”
Buchanan said everyone has certain programs they’d like to protect, but the reality is that California must decide how to get the most bang for the bucks it already has. Brown’s plan acknowledges this, she said: “I can’t say it’s perfect or that I’ll necessarily agree with every single part of it … but when I look at how he’s put the whole package together, I think overall he’s done an excellent job.”
Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, says specificity will be the key in convincing Californians to support extending the taxes already in effect for another five years, as Brown proposes. The message has to be that if those taxes aren’t extended, “then your school district will look like this, and your public safety system in California will look like this,” he said. “We need to show everyone, and I need to see it too – I have an understanding and a perception of how it would be, but I need to know how painful it would be – how many fewer teachers would we have?
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said she’s “pleased that our schools are at least being maintained, our K-12 schools, at the level they were this year – we can’t throw away a generation of children. The other cuts, we’re going to have start engaging in great detail.”
Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, said “we just have to be realistic about what we can do, where we’re going, and focus on creating some real structural reform,” adding that while she may not agree with every element of Brown’s plan, his personal engagement with lawmakers is refreshing. “It’s great, but at the same time, this is going to be really tough.”