The Oscars are now over, but the California budget battle is in its final days. If Gov. Jerry Brown is to have the special election on temporary tax increases that he wants in June, he needs a budget deal in the next two weeks.
With the action about to heat up, here are the early favorites for Academy-style awards in the endless drama that is the state budget crisis.
Best Picture: "Brown Goes to the Conference Committee." The spectacle of a governor testifying in front of a legislative committee is a rare one -- it hadn't been done in decades -- and Brown pulled it off. The exchange may have gotten him no closer to an agreement, but it laid bare the legislative Republicans' unwillingness to bargain at all. And it was highly entertaining. Video is here.
Best Director: Anne Gust Brown. The governor's team, with his wife as indispensable member, has created a series of high-impact moments (like the legislative appearance) and announcements (such as cutting back on cell phones and cars for state workers). The only question is: does team Brown have a third act for this movie?
Best Actress: California cities and local redevelopment agencies. Emoting more forcefully than even Natalie Portman in Black Swan, these local governments are crying oceans of tears about the horrors that will ensue if redevelopment is ended. They may not have convinced anyone who understands policy (redevelopment doesn't produce much in the way of jobs and shifts schools costs to the state), but one has to admire their commitment to the role of victim.
Best Screenplay. Grover Norquist. The anti-tax powerhouse from Washington DC writes the script -- no tax increases, no ballot measures on tax increases. Legislative Republicans, who took a pledge enforced by Norquist, simply mouth his words.
Best Supporting Actor: Sutter Brown. The governor's dog, a Corgi, is a scenery-chewing ham, but he's gotten nothing but good press. He also distracts from the fact that his master is ducking, at least for now, the kind of constitutional reforms necessary if California is ever going to fix its budget.