Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We Sink or We Swim Together

As the defining institutions of this state crumble from the burden of massive and sustained budget cuts, our quality of life in California suffers. Today, when the Legislature debated the governor’s budget proposal and the Democrats’ budget proposal, the choice was between two starkly different visions for the future of our state.

After closing a $40 billion deficit last year, it’s reckless to argue – as my Republican colleagues do - that we can simply cut our way out of the $19 billion financial hole we face today. That would mean cutting another 20 percent of our General Fund, equal to the amount we spend on corrections and higher education combined.

It’s routinely said that the state must tighten its belt during these tough times just like California’s families are doing. But government is not a family. Government provides vital services that are the foundation on which our society’s peace and the prosperity of our families depend. If we fail to provide that foundation, what kind of society are we left with?

The governor’s vision of our future embodied in his budget proposal, abandons important California values. Do we want a future with fewer schools, larger classrooms and fewer teachers? Do we want a future where our roads are so riddled with potholes and traffic that businesses can’t move goods and services? Do we want a future without local police, where the California Highway Patrol does not patrol our highways, where parks close down and cities turn off street lights because they can’t pay the electric bill? Do we want to lay off more workers and increase our already historically harsh unemployment rate?

Of course not. Failing to make these investments in our state will do far more harm than good.

The Democratic vision is to reinvest in education, to provide the educated workforce all need to thrive. The Democratic vision provides child care so people can get to work throughout California. The Democratic vision protects our natural heritage and provides the regulation necessary to create a level playing field for businesses here in California. Our vision rejects the notion that California can no longer afford to work for a brighter tomorrow.