Editorials

Editorial: Both parties need to budge on the budget

It’s not easy being a moderate Republican lawmaker. Just ask Sam Blakeslee.

On the one hand, he’s assailed by the right for refusing to sign a “no new tax” pledge. Yet on the other, he’s alternately courted and criticized by those who believe Californians should be allowed to vote on extending tax increases — and want Blakeslee’s support.

One recent example: An editorial in the San Jose Mercury News focuses on Blakeslee — whose district includes San Jose — in urging lawmakers to “get back to the table and make a deal to reform pensions and put the tax extensions on the ballot.”

It also cites examples of the various disasters that will befall public agencies in Blakeslee’s district if tax increases aren’t extended.

For instance, Cabrillo Community College in Aptos would face a $10.5 million deficit, forcing it to cut more classes and cancel entire programs.

“Is (returning to) the reduced tax rate so important that (Blakeslee’s) willing to deny access to hundreds of thousands of community college students?” Cabrillo College Vice President Victoria Lewis asks.

There are plenty of similarly dire examples in Blakeslee’s home county of San Luis Obispo.

And we, too, urge Blakeslee to go back to the table and negotiate a reasonable settlement to the budget stalemate.

But why let other lawmakers off the hook?

We believe that all 120 members of the Legislature, along with the governor, should be willing to negotiate a budget compromise for the good of all Californians.

That means Democrats should be prepared to budge on pension reform and Republicans should forget their ridiculous “no new tax” pledge and allow Californians to vote on tax extensions.

With that in mind, we again call on local Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian to reconsider his opposition to putting tax extensions on the ballot.

We want him to examine what would happen in San Luis Obispo County if an additional $14 billion or $15 billion is cut from the state budget, on top of the $11 billion already trimmed.

It’s already been estimated that K-12 schools in SLO County would lose another $20 million to $22 million, which would likely mean more teacher layoffs and possibly even a shorter school year.

Other agencies expect to take huge hits as well.

If, after considering the consequences, Achadjian still opposes a tax election, we’d like to know his plan for solving the budget crisis.

Blakeslee should be ready with an answer, too, in case he ultimately opposes a tax election.

It’s time we held every state lawmaker — whether senator or Assembly member, Republican or Democrat, conservative, moderate or liberal — accountable for California’s fiscal crisis.

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