Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gang of 14 Keep Moving the Goal Post on California’s Budget

In what has become the signature negotiating style of the ‘Gang of 14’ – the Senate Republicans blocking approval of the State budget – the Gang members added a new non-budget demand last night (after earlier indications that they had reached agreement). In addition to seeking to block the use of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to mitigate global warming pollution, they now want additional language to eliminate environmental review of levee repair projects.

Holding out the approval of the budget based on these non-budget demands is just wrong. And continually adding new demands, months after the budget should have been completed, makes it impossible to reach closure on the budget.

Their most recent demand is to eliminate environmental review for levee repair projects, which is particularly ironic given that legislation signed by the Governor last year, AB 1039 (Nunez) already exempts levee repairs from CEQA, provided that the repairs are on the same footprint as the existing levee.

The Democratic Leadership is caught between a rock and a hard place – the budget needs to get approved so that the most vulnerable among us don’t suffer undue hardships, but Senator Perata et. al. need to deal with a Republican Caucus in the Senate which has handed the keys to the most extreme, recalcitrant aspects of their party.

We continue to urge Senator Perata to resist the Gang of 14’s demands for additional rollbacks of environmental protections. These demands have no place in the budget debate, especially at this late date. We hope that at least one member of the Gang of 14 comes to their senses, and decides to put the good of Californians before the desires of their campaign contributors and party zealots.

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