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Republicans Release State Budget Proposal, which Democrats and Educators Quickly Criticize

May 19, 2011

In a move that appears to have been timed to draw attention away from last week’s series of rallies at the State Capitol by educators, and Monday’s release of the May Budget Revise by Governor Jerry Brown, legislative Republicans put forward their own budget proposal last Thursday.

It has been on relatively few occasions in recent years that legislative Republicans have put forward their own detailed state budget proposal. As expected, the plan called for no new taxes – a sharp contrast to the budget plans being promoted by Democrats, who are calling for an extension of three taxes that are about to expire, as an alternative to further funding cuts to education.

Assemblywoman Connie Conway (R-Tulare) told Assembly Speaker John Pérez in a letter, “The budget approach that we outline today represents the common-sense solutions that we believe can be embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike in enacting a reasonable no-tax increase, budget compromise.”

Conway continued “Budgets are a reflection of our priorities as a state.  Facing a $15.4 billion deficit, we are under no illusion that crafting a balanced budget is an easy task by any stretch of the imagination.  But the news that California has taken in $2.5 billion in unanticipated tax revenue in the past four months shows that we can balance the budget and protect the priorities of working families like education and public safety - without raising taxes on overburdened Californians.”

The Republicans budget plan proposed deeper cuts on services to the poor, elderly and disabled that Brown proposed earlier this year, but Democratic lawmakers rejected. The Republican plan also recommends state workers take another pay cut equal to 10 percent of their salaries. And the Republican plan suggests reallocating one-time funds intended for early childhood development and mental health for use in other areas.

Conway insisted that the Republican budget proposal would “protect education.” “Like every California parent, Assembly Republicans are concerned about the impact the budget will have on classroom dollars.  Our roadmap dedicates the $2.5 billion in unanticipated tax revenue, which is ‘real money in the bank’; to fully fund the Proposition 98 constitutional minimum funding guarantee for schools.  It also rejects the additional $4.1 billion in cuts to K-12 and $847 million in cuts to higher education as outlined in the LAO letter to Senator Leno. Assembly Republicans will fight any attempt to suspend Proposition 98.”

However, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown was quick to dismiss the Republican budget proposal. Gil Duran, the governor’s press secretary, described the Republican plan “nothing more than a transparent attempt to disrupt and distract from a real solution.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson took a dim view of  the California State Assembly Republican’s budget proposal, which called for suspending the Quality Education Investment Act of 2006 (QEIA), a piece of legislation that Torlakson authored while serving in the Assembly.

“I’m deeply disappointed that Assembly Republicans are proposing that California’s schools suffer further cuts on top of the $18 billion in reductions they have endured over the last three years,” Torlakson said. “To single out our state’s most needy students and schools to suffer the loss of nearly $500 million in funding critically needed to provide an effective, high-quality education shows a refusal to realize the toll these cuts would take.”

He added that QEIA provided about $3 billion to assist the state’s lowest-performing schools increase student achievement that were ranked in deciles 1 or 2 as determined by the 2005 Academic Performance Index (API) Base, the state’s accountability system.

“Our most vital institutions — our public schools — are in a state of financial emergency. They deserve our very best efforts to arrive at a long-term, bipartisan solution. Sadly, today’s Republican proposal falls far short of the mark,” Torlakson continued.

David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, likewise dismissed the Republican budget proposal. Sanchez, saying “it shows they are clearly out of touch with what California students need, and it is built of the same gimmicky principles that have plagued California’s budget process for years. While I’m glad they have issued a press release promising to protect public education funding, I’m insulted that they think their plan will do that. It’s a deliberately misleading and tardy scheme designed to trick voters into thinking it’s a real solution. Just look at the numbers: a $14.5 billion deficit can’t be erased by $2.5 billion in unexpected one-time revenue.”

Sanchez added, “I am not willing to sit idle while a handful of Republican lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly refuse to face the realities happening in the classrooms and communities across California.”

Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) suggested the Republican proposal is only a quick fix. “It will do little good to paper over a budget deficit with gimmicks ... only to have not solved the problem long-term and have our educators and our children be in the same, same awful place next year and the year after," Steinberg said.

Source:  Office of Assemblywoman Connie Conway, California Department of Education, California Teachers Association, Office of Senator Darrell Steinberg