The design of California’s commemorative state quarter and the ongoing budget debate in Sacramento might seem unrelated. However, when twenty Californians sat down to deliberate upon what image would best depict the spirit of the Golden State, they settled upon the now-familiar relief of California’s founding naturalist John Muir gazing towards Yosemite’s Half Dome with a soaring condor overhead.
Our state parks protect our natural splendors and allow not only Californians, but countless individuals from around the world to marvel at their magnificence. Parks also preserve our state’s history in a way no textbook can and serve as an invaluable teaching tool for our youth. With years of deferred maintenance, reduced days of operation, increased usage fees, and staff reductions — make no mistake about it — we have already surpassed “belt-tightening” within the parks. The reality is, this year’s budget goes beyond mere belt-tightening and will result in park closures for the first time ever in our state’s history.
As painful as this is to our legacy of preservation, it is an example of the level of sacrifice necessary to deliver a serious budget that is on-time, balanced, and takes real steps toward putting California’s fiscal house in order. This cut will be particularly painful to the people of our Second Senatorial District, as it contains approximately one-fifth of all our state parks.
The budget being crafted by Governor Brown and Legislative Democrats contains a mix of expenditure reductions and the continuation of current tax rates set to expire this year. As promised by Brown throughout his gubernatorial campaign, these tax mechanisms will not be enacted without voter approval. Governor Brown wants the voters to decide – do we cut our state services to the bone (and then some) and continue our current tax rates, or do we revert to lower tax rates that will require cutting state services at a truly unprecedented and unpredictable level?
Other Democratic legislators and I agree with Governor Brown – let the people vote. However, before the people can vote, the provisions must be placed on the ballot, which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Since a majority of Republican legislators have pledged to not allow the voters to be heard on these provisions, it is unclear if voters will have the chance to decide their budgeting future. To my Republican colleagues I say – let the people vote!
For much of our modern history, California’s quality of life has been the envy of the world. Perhaps it’s the weather, our unmatched public university systems, the robust and creative industries of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, or maybe even the preservation and accessibility of our state’s natural beauty. Whatever “it” is, Californians call a very special place “home” and deserve to vote on the future of our home before the only image our children can enjoy of their state’s proud tradition is on the back of a quarter.
State Senator Noreen Evans represents California’s 2nd State Senate District, which spans from the North Bay to the North Coast.s. Evans serves as Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. This article originally appeared on her new blog.