Labor and people’s organizations are expressing outrage over the proposals made by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the “State of the State” address he delivered Jan. 5, and the budget he introduced Jan. 10.

Among key proposals:

• A constitutional amendment that would trigger across-the-boards cuts when spending exceeds revenue. The proposed budget includes no new taxes.

• Congressional and legislative seats would be redistricted by a panel of retired judges, instead of the state Legislature as at present.

• State workers’ guaranteed-benefit pensions would be abolished for new hires, who would instead receive money to invest in a retirement account similar to a 401(k).

• Last year key education organizations agreed the state could postpone allocation of $2 billion due the education budget under Prop. 98, which assigns 40 percent of general fund money to education. Though the state collected over $2 billion in unexpected revenue last year, the proposed budget continues to hold back the funds.

• Teachers’ pay would be tied to merit, and their continued employment would be based on performance. It is not clear how merit or performance would be rated.

• Special measures would promote charter schools.

• The only health related proposal was for prescription drug discount cards for uninsured low income Californians. No measures were proposed to expand coverage.

• Nearly 100 state boards and commissions would be abolished, including a number of regulatory and appeal bodies.

The governor called an immediate special legislative session to start dealing with his proposals. He has threatened to call a special election if the Legislature does not bow to his demands, and right-wing forces are already preparing ballot initiatives.

“It’s almost a declaration of war — it’s absolutely astounding that Gov. Schwarzenegger could put into his second year budget so many things that are detrimental to our community,” Alice Huffman, California state president of the NAACP, said in a telephone interview. “Our organizations throughout the state will not let this man unravel everything that lets people flourish in the state of California.”

In the long term, Huffman said, the governor’s refusal to raise taxes will impact many services that are critical to the state’s people. “It’s as though the people he was elected to serve don’t really matter,” she added.

“A spending cap would doom California’s children to a perpetual state of under-funding,” said Francisco Estrada, Director of Public Policy for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). He cited the recently released Rand Corporation study that pointed out that the state spends $600 less per pupil than the average, with the result that 4th and 8th graders scored lower in reading and math than any state except Mississippi and Louisiana.

MALDEF doesn’t think this is the right time to focus on redistricting, Estrada said, “because too much work needs to be done on urgent issues affecting the lives of all Californians.”

“We think the priorities should be to make sure that every child in California is insured, and every child gets a great education,” he said. “That’s what the special sessions should be called for.”

“Governor Schwarzenegger is following Bush’s lead in dismantling workers’ retirement funds,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski in a Jan. 5 statement. “He is going after California’s public pensions in the same way that President Bush and the Republicans are going after Social Security.” Pulaski also said Schwarzenegger’s proposals on redistricting smack of the Republicans’ maneuvering in Texas, and pointed out the similarities in Republican state and national health initiatives. “The only people that will benefit [from the drug discount cards] are big PhRMA companies that have contributed millions to the governor’s campaign,” he said.

“California did not vote for Bush for president,” said Pulaski, “and we do not want George Bush as our governor. Unions will lead the fight against a Bush program in California.”

Leaders of the California State Employees Association and its largest affiliate, SEIU Local 1000, pointed out flaws in the governor’s reasoning. They noted that eliminating secure state worker pensions fails to solve any of the state’s problems because less than 1 percent of these pension are paid for by the state, and the average pension received by a retired state worker with 20 years service is less than $20,000 a year.

mbechtel@pww.org

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