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A Budget? Or a Hostage Taking?

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Opinion: A Budget? Or a Hostage Taking?

Warner Bros.

The 1975 film "Dog Day Afternoon" is based on an real-life bank robbery of the Chase Manhattan Bank branch in Brooklyn on August 22, 1972. Al Pacino plays a bank robber determined to steal enough to pay for his male lover's sex change operation, but the robbery spirals into a frenzy. The film was nominated for Best Picture.

Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal this week was about more than the budget. It also filled out the rest of his ballot initiative to raise income and sales taxes temporarily.

The proposal made plain what happens if his initiative doesn't pass: Big cuts to public schools (more than $5 billion) and to the state's two university systems ($250 million each).

These are the so-called trigger cuts you have heard so much in the media. But when tied to a ballot initiative, the trigger cuts carry the wrong metaphor. This is a hostage situation.

What the Democrats are saying is: pay the ransom of our tax-hike initiative, or see schools cut. Education is the hostage.

What would be the impact of those cuts? School districts would have some flexibility in carrying them out, but the most likely choice they would be make would be to shorten the school year, probably by about a week and a few days.

So what will it be, California? Your money or your kids?

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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