Coalition stresses need to break California budget stalemate

16:55, March 15, 2011      

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A coalition of local government officials, students, teachers, unionists and business leaders joined a call on Monday, urging Republican legislators to support California Governor Jerry Brown's budget proposal.

The coalition made the call after Brown and a group of Republican lawmakers had failed to reach compromise on ways to address the state budget crisis over the weekend.

"I think it's absolutely outrageous that these people (Republican state legislators) would abdicate their responsibility, sign on to some ideological pledge that says they won't raise revenues even when the state is stuck underwater," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said on behalf of the coalition.

"This would be a tsunami when you think about the devastating impact on families," he said. "My hope is that they'll get back to the table and be responsible, and put this on the ballot. That's all we're asking."

To eliminate the state's 25-billion-dollar budget deficit, Brown wants to ask the voters to decide whether to extend billions in sales, income and vehicle taxes for an additional five years, but Republicans oppose his proposal.

Joe Justin, spokesman for Republican Sen. Bill Emmerson, who took part in the weekend talks, blamed opposition from labor union leaders to changes in the state pension system and a cap on future government spending.

"The governor put in a lot of hard work with us and we appreciate the opportunity to do that work. Unfortunately, the power of the public employee labor unions is now undisputed. On issues of pension reform and a hard spending cap they couldn't get there," Justin said.

Despite the GOP's opposition, a January survey by the Public Policy Institute of California showed 53 percent of Californians support the governor's proposal to extend tax and fee increases, and avoid cuts to K-12(from kindergarten to 12 grades) education, higher education, health and human services.

The Los Angeles mayor's office estimated that failure to increase state revenue would lead to as much as six billion dollars in cuts to K-12 and college education. In anticipation of those cuts, the Los Angeles Unified School District issued more than 7,000 layoff notices to teachers and other staffers last week.

Brown's plan, if approved by voters on the June ballot, would renew the quarter-percent increase in personal income tax rates that expired at the end of 2010, and maintain a one-percent bump in the sales tax that is set to lapse in June.

The plan is projected to raise more than 12 billion dollars, cutting the state's projected 26-billion-dollar deficit in half.

Placing the measure on the June ballot, however, requires approval from two-thirds of the lawmakers in California's capital of Sacramento and, to date, no Republicans have signed off on it.

A. J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, called the budget crisis "an all-out assault on our children."

"Our state has cut 20 billion dollars over the last three years in education funds, and that's well over two billion for Los Angeles Unified (Scholl District). Our only chance to maintain public education is to extend the temporary taxes for the next five years," he said.

Source: Xinhua

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