By Len Feldman
California’s newly elected governor and new Legislature will soon confront the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis, which the Legislature’s own nonpartisan analyst has projected will result in a $25 billion shortfall by the 2011-12 budget year.
As they begin their work, officials will continue to hear from CTA and educators around the state, reminding them of the devastating effects that the previous cuts, already exceeding $21 billion in three years, have had on California classrooms.
While lame-duck Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called a special legislative session for Dec. 6 on the 2010-11 budget deficit of about $6.1 billion, those elected officials responsible for balancing the budget in the long term are expected to be much more concerned about shielding schools from additional slashes.
On Nov. 2 California voters elected a host of pro-education officials. It will be CTA-recommended Gov. Jerry Brown who will be proposing budget revisions aimed at protecting public schools, teachers and students over the two-year period. And it will be CTA-recommended Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson who will be proposing policy changes aimed at supporting teachers and other education professionals as they seek to provide a high-quality education to every student.
With the passage of Proposition 25 — also supported by CTA — the Legislature will be empowered to pass a legislative budget on a simple majority vote, unlike past years when the two-thirds vote requirement gave a small group of legislators the power to hold up the budget until their demands were met. Those demands often resulted in gains for wealthy corporations and more reductions in available funds for public schools.
Though there were significant wins for education at the polls this election year, Gov. Brown and
lawmakers will face considerable challenges. Voters rejected CTA-sponsored Proposition 24, which would have rolled back more than $1.3 billion in corporate tax breaks that were scheduled to begin next year — part of the price demanded by a legislative minority for their votes on the state spending package. Voters’ refusal to eliminate the $1.3 billion in corporate giveaways could leave legislators scrambling to find ways to reduce state spending by a similar amount.
The passage of Proposition 26 will also create many new challenges for lawmakers and
eliminate revenue options as “fee” increases will now require a two-thirds vote. (Note: The simple majority proposition only applies to the state budget; it does not affect the two-thirds vote needed to raise taxes and now other revenues.) The initiative is retroactive, meaning that as current fees expire, they will have to be renewed by a two-thirds vote.
Voters also passed Proposition 22, blocking the state government from transferring funds from local government, even in the most dire emergencies. That prohibition could impact lawmakers’ ability to fund other statewide public services. Together, Props. 22 and 26 mean an additional cut of $1 billion to public education this year.
Despite these hurdles, CTA will continue to educate lawmakers and other elected officials about the effects of the drastic cuts on education, students and teachers.