The Cone of Silence

Some of you may wonder why, and even be frustrated by the fact that, we haven’t been blogging about the status of budget negotiations. That’s because a virtually impenetrable cone of silence has descended upon the Capitol. Secrecy in budget negotiations is nothing new. However, the level of secrecy around budget negotiations that reached a new high last summer has been far surpassed by the lack of information in the current negotiations. While rumors fly daily – often several times a day – as to when a vote on a budget deal may occur, these rumors are neither confirmed nor denied by those truly in the know.

 The one safe bet seems to be that there will be no public hearings and no opportunity for public input on major decisions that will shape California for years, if not decades, to come. The taxes and spending cuts that are likely to be included will no doubt be drawn from some combination of the Governor’s proposals and plans supported by Legislative Democrats in late 2008. However, there are increasing signs that additional measures, such as a “hard” spending cap and sizeable tax cuts for the state’s largest corporations, may also be part of the package. The cone of silence has been particularly airtight with respect to “add ons” such as these. No details have been made available to rank and file lawmakers or the public that would enable a critical assessment of the impact they might have on current and future budgets.

— Jean Ross