Several elected officials across the states have approached budget shortfalls with extremely short-sighted and economically damaging proposals, including lavish tax breaks for corporations, slashing unemployment benefits, heinous cuts to programs that primarily benefit middle class and working families, eliminating earned income tax credit (EITC) programs, and privatizing services and institutions across the board, such as mental health services, prisons, and infrastructure. These types of policies will only serve to worsen fiscal pressures, exacerbate the economic pain of the middle class, increase inequality, and heighten the current regressivity of state tax structures, which, on average, place a heavier burden on low and middle-income earners than the rich. This is demonstrative of a disturbing and pervasive recent trend: tax breaks for the affluent and corporations, and austerity for the rest.
While the anti-immigrant rhetoric of this fall's campaigns may point to more shortsighted state proposals in 2011, states and municipalities have already begun expanding educational access for undocumented students to attend state universities and community colleges. These state and local efforts will hopefully build even more support at the federal level as Congressional leaders with President Obama and Speaker Pelosi's support prepare to re-introduce the DREAM Act in the upcoming lame-duck session.
Last month, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 2666, a strong bill sponsored by Asm. Nancy Skinner that would have required the state's Franchise Tax Board to compile information on corporate tax expenditures and publish the information on California's Reporting Transparency in Government website. The Governor had previously spearheaded accountability reforms and repeatedly emphasized the right of California taxpayers to know where the state directs public funds, especially during an economic downturn. However, his veto reflects right-wing policy priorities: siding with corporations at the expense of sound fiscal policy, middle class interests, and taxpayer protections.
Last week, California became the first state to bring its state health exchange into law. Known as the California Health Benefit Exchange, the exchange is expected to be operational by 2014 and cover at least 3 million uninsured Californians. Success of the program depends upon the appointment of a powerful five-member health care oversight board. While signing the bills to create the exchange, Gov. Schwarzenegger stressed the critical role states play to implement the national health care law, noting that "for national reform to succeed, it will be up to the states to make it work."
This November, Californians will vote on Prop. 23, an effort funded by polluters to repeal California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 – Assembly Bill 32 - a landmark bipartisan achievement that is already creating jobs and reducing pollution in the state. If passed, the initiative would damage California’s clean-energy economy and lower unemployment levels by crippling the emerging clean energy industries.
In August, California lawmakers approved AB 2666, a bill sponsored by Asm. Nancy Skinner that requires the state's Franchise Tax Board to compile information on corporate tax expenditures and publish the information on California's Reporting Transparency in Government website. In 2009 alone, the state spent $14.5 billion on corporate tax expenditures with no oversight or accountability mechanisms.