The California Legislature — on strike against the public since Prop. 13 passed three decades ago — reached yet another new low on Wednesday with passage on deadline of a phony budget that protects their $400-a-day paychecks and does nothing to solve the people’s problems.
In fact, it makes the people’s problems worse, robbing schools, colleges and courts of their funding, raising fees, borrowing heavily and counting on fictitious revenue.
It was nothing but a political stunt that has left Gov. Jerry Brown no choice but to veto it or go the way of Grey Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The do-nothing legislators did nothing that will spur economic recovery and job growth. But they did protect their paychecks.
Even clouds this dark have a bright lining and that came during debate on two bills that are part of the budget package — one requiring Community Redevelopment Agencies to repay $1.7 billion a year to the state and local governments, the other allowing them to continue to confiscate private property under eminent domain and turn it over to other private interests.
That’s what prompted Irvine Republican Donald Wagner to denounce the bills as a -bait-and-switch shakedown, abolishing CRAs with one bill and recreating them in the other, like Tony Soprano suggesting your property might not be safe unless you take out some insurance.
“Let’s not buy the insurance policy that Tony Soprano is selling us,” Wagner said.
That brought La Canada Flintridge Democrat Anthony Portantino to his feet, angrily accusing Wagner of a slur against Italian-Americans.
“As a proud Italian-American, I resent that and would respectfully ask the commenter to make an apology to Italian-Americans in California,” he said.
Wagner retorted half-heartedly: ”I will apologize to any Italian-Americans that are not in the Mafia and engaged in insurance scams.”
That was too much for good old Warren Furutani who charged after the taller and younger Wagner — a moment of true political theater of the absurd immortalized by the Sacramento Bee’s Hector Amezcua.
This is what we have come to: Leaders who have allowed the great state of California to become a national joke, a symbol of governmental failure by their sellouts to special interests, their inadequate investment in schools and infrastructure, their policies that have driven away business and good jobs.
If there is any reason for hope it lies in finally ending the gerrymandering of legislative districts so only ideologues on the left and right can get elected and by opening up the primaries to all voters.
Nothing will change until the balance of power is held by the political center, by political leaders who strive to solve the people’s problems and who know they own their positions to the voters — not the big money campaign contributors.