Heroic Democrats vs. Heartless Republicans in California

On Monday, Sacramento-based reporter Jennifer Steinhauer returned to the scene of California's budgetary bloodbath, and again fingered Republican Party lawmakers as culprits for refusing to sign on to tax hikes, in "California's Solution to $24 Billion Budget Gap Is Going to Bring Some Pain."

Steinhauer spent much of last month insulting California voters for rejecting a tax-hiking ballot initiative, lamenting that "direct democracy has once again upended California" and voters had rejected "measures to keep state solvent" (as if the dubious mixture of definite tax hikes and vague spending cuts were guaranteed to do that).

Today she blamed both the voters and state Republicans, while portraying big-spending, tax-hiking Democrats as heroes (never mind that Californians pay among the highest income tax, gas tax, and car tax rates in the nation):

There are not a multitude of ways to close a $24 billion state budget gap, but in California, the answer is probably going to come down to who gets hurt the most.

While Democrats struggle to preserve programs for the state's neediest residents through one-time accounting maneuvers and by passing some of the pain to smokers and oil companies through fees and taxes, Republicans are holding the line on new taxes and trying to force large cuts that will have an effect on policies like health care for children in poor families and the early release of thousands of prisoners.

Lawmakers passed a budget for both 2009 and 2010 in February, but the legislation, which covered 17 months' worth of spending, was dependent on the passage of several ballot propositions that voters overwhelmingly sank in May. As a result, the state's budget gap expanded.


Political posturing infused the Capitol last week, with the governor and the Legislature decrying one another. Darrell Steinberg, the Senate president pro tem, sent Mr. Schwarzenegger a package of mushrooms in response to the governor's saying the Legislature was "hallucinating" with its budget plan; the governor sent Mr. Steinberg a sculpture of a bull testicle, suggesting something like backbone, only not quite, would be needed to make tough cuts.

Back in the real world, where libraries are laying off workers, parks are preparing to close and parents are explaining to sobbing 5-year-olds why their beloved teachers will not be back next year, residents await the final cuts.