State held hostage

Senate Republicans are now saying that one of the principal reasons they’re refusing to sign off on the state budget is because Attorney General Jerry Brown is exceeding his authority in the way he is enforcing the California Environmental Quality Act.

Does that sound odd? Well, it is. CEQA has nothing to do with the budget. The Republicans are being foolish—but at a terribly high price. During the six weeks the budget impasse has lasted, thousands of health-care, nursing-home and other state-funded providers up and down the state haven’t gotten paid. As a result, they’re running out of food and supplies and can’t pay their employees, who care for many of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

At issue is Brown’s effort to make cities and counties consider global-warming impacts in their planning processes. The Republican holdouts—including our own Sen. Sam Aanestad—charge that it’s anti-growth and illegal, but they’re unwilling to let the courts sort that out. Instead, they’re holding the budget hostage.

Whatever the Republicans think of Brown’s effort, the state budget is not the forum to do battle over it. Besides, Californians, including six in 10 Republicans, support efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions and decrease global warming. By opposing Brown in this way, the Republican senators are just reminding us that they all voted against AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

Another irony is that the Republicans are charging that Brown’s efforts will waylay implementation of voter-approved infrastructure bonds. But Brown supported those bond measures—and the Republican senators did not.

All of this is further evidence that California’s budget process is broken. Because the state is one of only three that require the budget be approved by a two-thirds majority, a small cabal of reactionaries—14 out of 40 senators—can hold the state hostage in pursuit of a narrow, misguided agenda while people are suffering. It’s time for them to give it up and sign the budget compromise that their Republican colleagues in the Assembly approved.

It’s also time for voters to realize that the supermajority requirement for budget passage is harmful to the state and should be changed.