by Max Reyes, SFVYD Editorial Director
What an exciting election night it was indeed on Tuesday, November 2nd!
We should all be proud of our work—from countless hours of phone banking, canvassing, and helping candidates out in the campaign trail. We saved California’s seats despite the Republican wave sweeping across the nation. We elected Jerry Brown to become the Governor once again and kept Senator Barbara Boxer in office. Meg Whitman spent an earth-shattering $140+ million and still lost by a wide margin. To put this in perspective, Jerry Brown spent just a little more than $25 million for his campaign and received more than 5 million votes while Whitman received only approximately 3.8 million for her investment. Whitman may as well have donated that money to the State to help fill our budget deficit!
Voters also elected newcomers to statewide office with Gavin Newsom, Dave Jones, Tom Torlakson, and hopefully (fingers crossed) Kamala Harris. The CA Democratic Party has sent out a call-to-action to help monitor the vote count for the rest of the vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. If you are interested in volunteering, you can sign up at http://www.tinyurl.com/KDHVolunteerInfo.
Additionally, Democrats in the Legislature picked up a victory through Dr. Richard Pan in the 5th Assembly District (AD), a seat currently held by terming out Republican Roger Niello. And in AD 31, Democrats added yet another member, Henry Perea, to the Party. That seat is currently held by terming out Democrat-turned-Independent Assemblyman Juan Arambula. Two days after the election, former Assembly Republican Leader Martin Garrick stepped down and was replaced by Assemblywoman Connie Conway.
California voters passed Proposition 25, which lowers the vote threshold to pass the state budget from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority. The budget has come late year after year in large part due to the two-thirds vote threshold required to pass it. This year, it was a record 100 days late. The main drawback to this initiative, however, is that increasing taxes (a high point of contention every year) still requires a two-thirds vote. Nonetheless, Prop. 25 is still an incremental step towards bringing the budget process in the right direction.
In turn, there are a couple of propositions that passed which will make it more difficult to pass the budget on time. For instance, Prop. 22 will prohibit the State from borrowing local funds. Although I see why voters would support this measure to protect local transportation funding, CA is facing tremendous financial hardship with a soaring unemployment rate and vital programs such as education and healthcare need to be funded. Prop. 13 had already put a ridiculous amount of responsibility towards the State Legislature with not nearly enough funds to pay for essential services (a whole story unto itself) and the passage of initiatives such as Prop. 22 only make it worse because lawmakers will have fewer sources of funding to solve a budget deficit. I think given the changes the Legislature has had to go through within the past 30 years, local transportation projects could have waited while the common Californian is given the means to survive during our economic crisis.
Another proposition that will further exacerbate the budget process is Prop. 26, which increased the vote threshold for certain state fees to two-thirds. State fees are different from taxes in that the former is typically used to pay for a specific service or program, whereas taxes pay for general services such as prisons, healthcare and social services. Fellow SFVYD Executive Board member and Sierra Club Associate Press Secretary, David Graham-Caso, explains that Prop. 26 causes a problem for the State because ‘"fees" are how we make polluters pay to clean up toxic spills and how we make tobacco companies pay for healthcare programs that seek to mitigate the damage they do to public health.” Also, imagine what this does to our budget shortfall for next year. Republicans will most likely block any attempt to increase state fees to help fill the gap in our budget, just like they do with tax increases, further limiting the Legislature’s ability to fund crucial programs.
As you can see we have a lot to be proud of, but yet have much to work on. We have elected and re-elected some great individuals into public office. Although I definitely see what Democrats will be up against in the coming years, we have to remain strong. The Republicans may have taken back the U.S. House of Representatives, but we were able to hold down the fort here in CA. We need to use our momentum, up the ante and continue getting folks, especially our generation, involved and back to the polls as we did in 2008.