It’s already been an interesting week for the Democrats who would be governor.
On Tuesday, state Controller John Chiang warned that the state could run out of cash by March.
Also on Tuesday, Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that she is joining 11 other states in urging the Supreme Court to “protect against discriminatory housing practices.”
And on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom complained that Gov. Jerry Brown “lacks a vision for greatness” and is “not necessarily the most collaborative executive.”
Which translates to “the governor doesn’t listen to me.”
And people wonder why so few of California’s lieutenant governors ever move up to the state’s top job.
Interviewed on a San Francisco radio program, Newsom also suggested that Brown has screwed up by calling for deep cuts in social programs and higher education, which is in “a serious code-red crisis.”
While Newsom didn’t provide any immediate solutions, he did say that if Brown would only give him the controller, the finance team, the state department heads and 48 hours, he’d come up with those answers.
He didn’t say whether on the next day he’d rest.
Newsom did commend Brown for “doing a very good job focusing on solvency,” which I’m sure the governor appreciated.
Now it’s easy to make fun of Newsom, who apparently has way too much time to sit in his capital office and brood about how in a just world he’d be the governor right now, but his complaints are echoed by way too many other Democrats.
How can California slash social service spending like Brown proposes in his 2012-13 budget? How can a Democrat keep chopping state funding for higher education and let tuition soar? With a Democrat as governor and his party in firm control of the Legislature, why aren’t happy days here again?
Well, there’s that pesky solvency issue Newsom mentioned.
As Brown said when he introduced his budget last month, “we can’t spend what he don’t have. And that’s the problem. It’s not nice. We don’t like it. But the economy and the tax statutes in California make just so much money available.”
Which is a nice way of saying, “What’s the alternative?”
Way too many Democrats in Sacramento and elsewhere in the state are unwilling to accept what in another incarnation Brown called “an era of limits.” Even with the drastic cuts Brown is calling for, the budget isn’t going to be balanced unless California voters approve the governor’s proposed ballot measure, which would raise an estimated $6.8 billion a year in taxes for five years.
And that vote is going to be something short of a slam dunk.
And as for what George H.W. Bush memorably called “the vision thing”? Sure it’s important, but it’s not a great idea to spend your time thinking great thoughts about the future landscaping when the house is burning down around you.
But in his state of the state address, the governor did have an idea for those Democrats and Republicans who aren’t happy with the spending plan he’s proposed.
“If any of you have other suggestions that you think are better, please share them with us,” Brown said. “After all, we are in this together.”
So, lieutenant governor, there’s your opening. You might not get the government team you need to get those plans made in 48 hours, but take all the time you need.