Dems Fight Back
Budget bosses Laird and Perata go public with battle against governor’s axe.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Shortly after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rolled out his spending plan for the state, Democratic leaders have launched an all-out assault on the governor’s proposal to cut billions of dollars from seniors, students and the poor.
“Helping older Californians is not a special interest,” said Monterey Bay area Assemblyman and Budget Committee Chair John Laird after announcing a series of committee hearings that promise to take a critical look at the governor’s proposals.
Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) has also announced a series of Senate budget committee hearings to be held in the next six weeks throughout the state—including a town-hall-style education hearing in Salinas sometime next month.
Both legislative leaders have said that the Democrats will present an alternate plan to the governor’s $111.7 billion budget proposal, which would axe billions of dollars earmarked for schools, traffic projects, welfare recipients and health services.
Speaking with the Weekly about a week after the governor announced his spending proposal, Laird attacked what he calls a proposed “tax on seniors.”
Schwarzenegger’s budget would cut $140 million in renter’s and homeowner’s assistance payments made to seniors.
“This means that they will pay more taxes,” Laird says. “If there’s going to be a tax increase in the budget, why is it going to be on older people with fixed incomes?”
“It’s a priority for Democrats in the legislature to make sure there’s no tax increase on seniors.”
Instead, Laird says, corporations doing business in California should be held accountable.
“We have to close some tax loopholes,” Laird says.
He pointed to one such loophole that allows companies that move their home office to the Cayman islands, or the Bahamas, to evade California taxes.
“Seniors making $812 a month don’t have the option of moving to the Cayman islands or the Bahamas,” Laird says. “The governor said this budget is about choices: I’d rather we make the choice to make those companies pay their fair share in taxes rather than raise the taxes on seniors on fixed incomes.”
In addition, the budget would take federal dollars—intended for Social Security increases—and put the money into the state’s general fund. “Basically pocketing the extra,” Laird says.
The governor’s spending plan would also cut payments to in-home caretakers for the disabled and elderly. Currently, they make about $10 an hour. Under the Schwarzenegger plan, they would make minimum wage, or $6.75 an hour. This would save the state $195 million.
“In this next budget year,” Laird says, “We’ll see the first Baby Boomers reach the age of 60—a depressing thought, I might add. So we need to have a budget that is prepared for California’s changing demographics.
“Additionally, for every dollar of tax money that goes from California to the federal government, California really only gets 77 cents back. That amounts to $50 billion. And, as unhappy as I was that the governor campaigned for President Bush in Ohio, at least it gives him the chance to pull more federal money down to California. The governor said he was going to be ‘The Collectinator,’ and now’s his chance.”