The really bad news about the state budget

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There's no way to put a good spin on the new budget figures released by the Guv. No matter what happens in November, people who need help are going to get screwed in this state. Public schools will lose money. Health-care for the poor will be near collapse. Cities and counties will struggle to preserve the local safety nets. It's just a disaster, and there's no other way to look at it.

Of course, if we don't approve Jerry's tax plan in November, it will all be much, much worse. And he seems to be doing the right thing to promote the idea, making it clear just how deep the cuts will be and where they will hit.

But the tax plan is nowhere near enough, not even enough to keep the state at its current austerity level, much less to repair some of the damage and replace the funding that's already been eliminated. And while the notion of cutting state workers back to a four-day week, or of mandatory furloughs, may sound better than cutting specific services, think about what it means:

First, all that money that the state workers give up will instantly disappear from the economy. Most of these folks aren't wealthy, and they spend what they earn. That's a hit to already-depressed demand. Then there's the impact on the rest of us. Try getting an appointment at the DMV. (You think it's bad now? Take away 20 percent of the employees.) Try getting a court date if you've been injured. (Oh, but if you're a landlord, don't worry -- evictions won't be slowed down at all.) This is going to be awful.

Here's what I would say to Jerry: Push not only for your tax measure but to elect enough Democrats to pass taxes without going to the ballot. There's no reason this current measure needs a vote of the public; the Legislature has every legal ability to pass all of those taxes. And if it weren't for a handful of Republicans who drink the no-tax Kool Aide, it would be happening.

Closing a few corporate loopholes and instituting an oil-severance tax would solve much of the remaining deficit. Reinstating Schwarzenneger's cuts to the vehicle license fee would solve the rest. And all of that can be done without a ballot fight.

The moderate Democrats in Sacto annoy me as much as the Republicans sometimes, but if Brown and Legistlative leaders make it clear that they're helping candidates in swing districts, but that they expect them not to be obstructionist on taxes, there could be much better news in the years ahead.