From the details we know so far of the proposed budget deal, will it be enough to prevent the California ship of state from meeting disaster? The S.S. California is heading toward an iceberg. The question state legislators, and eventually voters, will have to ask themselves is: Should it be allowed to crash or is the budget deal acceptable?
Some argue it should crash. Then the spending system can be rebuilt anew. But if the ship does crash, many will suffer. Turning the ship in the right direction and away from immediate danger will have a cost as well, a cost we all will pay. And in the case of tax increases, this is no light matter. It will delay recovery and keep us in choppy waters for some time.
But navigating those choppy waters must be played against the destructive force of doing nothing and hitting the iceberg.
The important issue for those voting on this budget deal – be they elected officials now or voters in a special election later this year – is whether will they see a clear path to calmer seas.
There are many components to this deal that add to one’s discomfort and uncertainty, including difficult spending cuts, hoping for money from Washington, adding more borrowing and playing with budget numbers. But, two crucial parts are the spending restraint and the issue of temporary taxes.
The spending limit uses a rolling average of spending over a ten-year period. If such a method had been in place over the last decade, spending would be lower now.
Saying that taxes will be temporary does not necessarily make it so. Many times, so-called temporary taxes have been made permanent. But a concerted effort to keep the focus on these taxes, constantly reminding the public that what they bought were temporary increases, may make sure that the taxes sunset when they are supposed to.
One thing is for sure: No one will like this budget package. No one. And, if that is so, by rights should it be defeated. Or is this the best we will get to get us on the path to redemption? The crisis did not occur overnight and won’t be fixed in one dramatic moment.
Once we’ve had a chance to fully consider the plan, if there is a sense that we can turn the ship of state on a better course with this deal, that the spending limit will prevent future swells lifting and dropping the budget numbers precipitously, and that the taxes are a short term fix, then the plan may find acceptance.