A Democratic problem

The eternal debate about the state budget is now left up to the Democrats, thanks to a change voters approved last year. Nevertheless, that change didn’t improve the process and Sacramento is once again in a race against the clock to approve an expense plan.

So far, there is no agreement between Governor Jerry Brown’s plan and Democratic proposals that reduce cuts in the welfare area presented by the executive branch. Unhappy with the counterproposal coming from the Capitol, Brown changed the tone of the conversation, arguing that his cuts are part of a much-needed welfare system reform that started at the federal level during the Clinton administration.

Undoubtedly, his new strategy is earning the governor Republican support. By being tough on welfare, Brown hopes to gain credibility for his next election initiative, which seeks to raise taxes.

This strategy will be useful in November, but it is not good to disguise a service cut to save money as a reform of the welfare system. For example, to encourage unemployed parents to look for jobs or get trained, it’s necessary to provide child care, transportation subsidies and of course, job training courses. All of this is more expensive than the cash subsidies Brown is proposing to reduce.

In practice, it is no longer necessary to have those Republican votes-so hard to obtain-to achieve a legislative supermajority. However, a Friday deadline for the budget is looming, and if an agreement hasn’t been reached by then, lawmakers will start forfeiting their pay.

No one will shed a tear because of lawmakers’ paychecks. Californians have suffered enough because of the economic crisis, unemployment, poor education and permanent cuts to the safety net.

Welfare reform can be discussed later on. Also, we can expect an increase in the revenue coming into state coffers if the tax hike is approved in November. Meanwhile, a realistic Democratic agreement is needed in order to pass the budget.