Last night’s Daily Show had a remarkable segment on California’s budget and governance problems.
Most will remember it for the colorful vernacular of California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton. And it’s great that many across the country will be introduced to Burton, who has been a health reform hero, as the author of SB2 in 2003 when he was State Senate President Pro Tem.
But the segment illustrates some real issues with our budget and initiative process, spotlighting the attempt of Amazon.com to run a ballot initiative to avoid taxes. We are proud of our work with the HHS Network to counter Amazon’s effort to defund core services (which would have been the impact if they succeeded). Our website and effort, ThinkBeforeYouClickCA.org, was part of a much bigger campaign that got Amazon to come to a negotiated legislative agreement: the tax collection policy was modified and delayed, and Amazon agreed to not file the signatures that they spent millions, at $3/name, to collect.
The segment doesn’t get into the settlement, rather questioning an initiative process taken over by corporate interests, and the budget gridlock that results.
The Daily Show spared nobody, from politicians (like Assemblyman Tim Donnelly) and their overstated rhetoric, to voters themselves. Their traditional foil of the media was spared, but that was the subject of one of their earlier visits to California that I remember vividly.
If it takes a few curse words to get people interested and engaged in budget and governance issues, then more power to them.