(cross posted at Fox and Hounds Daily)
Old men are warning us about a war that has already started.
Across the spectrum, people from Gov. Jerry Brown to Mr. Fox, proprietor of this web site, say that if there is no budget deal, we will see a "war of all against all" in this state.
Hasn't that war been going on for at least a generation?
In the 1970s, court decisions on school finance, Prop 13 and the post-Prop 13 bailout of local governments centralized decisions about tax and spending in Sacramento. That meant everyone was competing in the same place for the same pie.
What happened? Anyone who wanted their interest to survive hired lobbyists, political consultants, and, in many cases, signature gatherers to carve out their piece of the centralized pie. The "winners" in this war (since there are no winners in war, these might be more accurately called "those who lost less") - K-14 education, prisons -- secured special deals that make it, at the very least, harder to take their money away. The losers - higher ed, social services - didn't, in part because they were too precious or too poor to fight.
And just as each spring in Afghanistan brings a new Taliban offensive, each budget season reliably sparks new battles in the war.
Brown's budget, as much as it's been touted, will only extend the war. It provides both cuts and temporary revenues over which to fight. Unfortunately, the peacemaking gestures in his budget - and the way to peace is to decentralize power, so decisions on taxation and spending are made in the local level - seem unlikely to survive.
That's because today's Sacramento is built upon this war. Much of the town - from the politicians to political consultants to the press - makes a living from the fights. Which is why peace won't come to California from Sacramento deal making. It will have to come from outside.
Probably in the same way that General Sherman brought peace to the South.