Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has a request for President George W. Bush: Show me the money.
She is drafting a letter to the lame duck president, asking him for a $5 billion “cash infusion” (read: bailout) so the state doesn’t have to make drastic, mid-year cuts to education to fill a gaping budget deficit.
“One of the things we definitely need is descretionary cash,” she told a packed ballroom at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles today. Bass was the luncheon speaker for the 16th Annual California Policy Issues Conference held by the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs.
Her reasoning is well, creative. She wants the president and the Congress, which is considering a new stimulus package for funding public works projects, as well as a bailout for the U.S. automakers, to think of California not as government, but as industry.
California is the sixth largest economy in the world, is home to the largest public port, has the largest population of any U.S. state, and is responsible for creating jobs and boosting the economy. Just like the Big Three automakers in Detroit, or the big financial companies in New York, it should be propped up and “not left to fall off a cliff.”
“We need to look at the state as an industry,” said the Assembly speaker.
The federal bucks would be on top of raising state revenues through a 1.5 cent sales tax hike, by bringing back the vehicle license fee, taxing oil companies for extracting crude and hiking the state income tax. Though the numbers are still quite fuzzy, Bass indicated in answering a journalist’s question after her remarks, that if the state got a federal bailout, it would not have to “decimate education” with draconian cuts.
A reporter asked her if that request has been made known to President Bush or anyone in Washington for that matter?
“I am in the process of doing that now,” she answered. And earlier, she indicated such a request should be “placed on George Bush’s doorstep.”
Bass said California did not create this problem alone, but the state budget is bleeding red ink — about $27.8 billion by June 2010 — because of the record rise in housing foreclosures and the international credit and financial meltdown.
“This is not just California’s problem and so it should not just be California’s solution,” Bass said. Twenty-nine states face budget shortfalls, including the Golden State.
Reminds me of the 1970s when New York City asked for a bailout from New York Gov. Abe Beam. When he refused, the New York Daily News ran a headline that said: “Gov to NY: Drop Dead.”
We’ll hold the presses on that one. Still, it should be interesting to see if Bass has that kind of influence in Washington, a place that usually has a motto when it comes to helping out California: ABC for Anyone But California.
Either way, California will have to get in line to receive the next federal bailout.