Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass met May 8th with California African-American pastors and faith leaders to discuss the current budget crisis and the upcoming ballot propositions. The propositions, which include creating a rainy-day fund and implementing future spending constraints, are designed to help close the massive budget hole that the state faces.
Speaking bluntly, Bass told the attendees, "Our house is on fire and we have to put the fire out."
Bass went on to describe the tough position the governor and the legislature faced in determining how to close the state's projected $42 billion shortfall.
"I'm not trying to put a happy face on this," she stated, describing the marathon negotiations that took place to construct the current budget.
Governor Schwarzenegger described the worsening economic situation in the state and reminded the group that profits and revenues are down worldwide. He addressed the situation in California by stating, "We have to cover this deficit." Schwarzenegger admitted, "There are some in my own party who want the state to go off the cliff." Nevertheless, both Schwarzenegger and Bass cautioned that it is not the members of the legislature that will be punished if the propositions fail - it is the people of the state.
African-American support of Props 1A and 1B is sought after because many believe that this community will suffer greatly in the face of budget cuts- especially in education, children's programs, and services for the elderly, sick, and disabled. Speaker Bass concluded: "This is the best of times and the worst of times. We have a new President-Obama, who brings incredible hope to the country, but we are faced with the destruction of the safety net in California, and we need our safety net, now more than ever!"
A few pastors, including A.M.E. Reverend Dr. Frederick Murph and C.M.E. Bishop Henry Williamson, expressed the need for sustained dialogue with the state leaders. "We've been here before." Murph told Schwarzenegger and Bass, "We would like the opportunity to meet with you when we are not in crisis mode."
Both the Governor and the Speaker agreed to continue meeting with the faith leaders to address the budget crisis and other issues of concern within the African-American community. Reminding those gathered of the current economic situation, and the need to press for support of the propositions, Schwarzenegger ended on an upbeat note, saying, "We are in unchartered territory-however, we will come out of this recession. There is hope!"