CA Democrats Talk about 'Investing,' not 'Spending'

CA Democrats Talk about 'Investing,' not 'Spending'

The Sacramento Bee writes that “unexpected revenue” is giving the Democratic governor and legislature leeway to call their spending of the funds “investing.” The Bee buries the reason for the “unexpected revenue” in the 16th paragraph:

California’s fiscal turnaround is caused in part by voter passage of Proposition 30 in 2012, which increased the state sales tax for four years and taxes on high-income earners for seven years.

“Unexpected revenue?” Just call it more taxes.

The Bee does make much of the attempts by Democrats to characterize their spending of the cash as “investing.” Last week, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, (D-Berkeley), said she hopes the state will make “meaningful and strategic investments in early and higher education, in health care access and closing that opportunity gap.” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, (D-Sacramento), had already said he wanted to “make sure that there is room left for some investment to meet the needs of the people.” Last month Assembly Speaker San Diego Democrat Toni Atkins said she wanted a budget that “expands opportunity by making smart investments.”

Jessica Levinson, teaching at Loyola Law School, commented on the fact that Democrats are characterizing “spending” as “investment”: “Is it smart rhetorically to categorize this as an investment rather than just an expenditure? Absolutely, because it makes it sound like we’re not just spending money.”

The Brown administration wants to use an estimate of $107.8 billion for the general fund budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but the Democratic legislators prefer the numbers from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which amount to $2.5 billion more.

Both sides may be disappointed; on Tuesday, the state controller’s office said revenue for the state was 5.5 percent less than had been projected for the last six months, for a grand total of $389 million.

Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, (R-Tulare), was clear that the Democrats calling their spending “investing” didn’t change what it was:

Call it what they will, the Democrats seek to spend one-time money that is largely the result of the voters approving a $45 billion tax increase that was intended for education and public safety. Their “investments” will be in law and come with a bill year after year, regardless of having the revenue to pay.

Sen. Mark Leno, (D-San Francisco), was unrepentant about using the term “investing.” Commenting on the state’s surplus and agreeing with California Governor Brown that some of it should go into a savings account, he also argued that the surplus should be used for social, education, and college programs cut during the recession. He said, “There’s no disagreement about that. But yes, we do believe we need to begin to reinvest in the people of California.”