Each year, the state of California and local municipalities play the budget game – trying to work out how to fund services and pay growing debts with shrinking revenue.
Those of us who have been watching and experiencing the impact of continuing cuts to vital services see a different pattern – a crisis in revenue generation that dates back over three decades. In 1978 California passed the misleading and profoundly impactful Proposition 13, which put into place loopholes for giant corporate property owners and a law that requires a two-thirds supermajority vote to increase taxes. Prop 13 simultaneously made it easier for big corporations to get out of paying their fair share of taxes and made it much harder for our state representatives to raise revenues through tax increases. Prop 13 has seriously hurt generations of California residents.
This year things got even worse as cities across the state faced the additional burden of loosing funding from the closure of all state Redevelopment agencies. Historically the Redevelopment Agency’s responsibilities includes mitigating community blight, attracting new businesses to economically depressed areas and building affordable housing. This will not be a cut that our cities easily recover from.
There is a battle of ideas happening here. On one side are the people who say that government should not be involved in providing services and trying to meet the need of residents. They argue that the role and function of government should be reduced and by that extension, funding for government programs should shrink. We disagree. We say that the our state and local governments have a responsibility to make sure that critical services like education and health care are fairly and equally available to everyone who needs it. Therefore instead of shrinking resources, we need to find ways to raise revenues and make sure that we can meet the huge need that exists in our communities.
Without the wealthy corporations and individuals of California paying their fair share, we will see more of the same: overcrowded schools with more teacher layoffs and no books for students, crumbling roads and highways, closing libraries and senior centers, and shrinking health care access for those that need it most.
This cannot continue. We have to do something different if we are going to rebuild our neighborhoods and cities.