This week’s column, jsut as last week’s, is a true story. It’s about the world where 1 + 1 = 3. Some refer to that world as California politics.
Before you tune me out and begin skimming, remember that this is the world in which you live and the one you are bestowing upon your children or grandchildren.
Perhaps some of you who have called California home for years or even decades may image this world as “Never, Never Land.”
You know the world where benefits and government spending never cease. The world where taxes never increase and public expenditures never decrease.
In June, the state Legislature enacted a “balanced budget,” also part of the fairy tale. All winter and spring, pollsters kept telling the politicians that voters would not endorse tax increases and didn’t want any programs cut.
Since income tax receipts were surprisingly good in April and May, our legislative leaders, with the concurrence of Gov. Jerry Brown, decided revenue would continue to grow and rated estimates $4 billion. This allowed them to comply with the requirement to enact a balanced budget for fiscal year 2011-2012.
After the magical dust settled, revenue receipts are failing to approach the $4 billion trajectory. Surprisingly, they planned for this catastrophe and enacted a plan for December budget cuts.
Higher education, in-home services and juvenile justice are a few of the first targets. If the revenue miss is sufficiently large, local schools can just drop seven days from the school year. School bus transportation and community colleges are the center of the next bull’s-eye.
This plan is not the final solution. We live in “Never, Never Land” where everybody believes they’re right and the other guy needs to blink.
Just last week, four different groups filed lawsuits to protect their favorite budgetary casues. They asked the courts to overturn the Legislature’s budget and restore the reductions. “You feeling lucky today,” Dirty Harry said.
The California School Boards Association wants the $2 billion restored for Proposition 98 funding. General counsel for CSBA says, don’t worry now, just repay it in future years.
The Arc of California and the United Cerebral Palsy Association of San Diego went to federal court to protect state reimbursement of services to people with mental or physical handicaps.
“It’s illegal to slash basic support services that allow Californians with developmental disabilities to live safely in their communities,” said Tony Anderson, executive director of The Arc of California. A $174-million reduction in this budget tipped the scale initiating this suit.
Earlier in the week, the California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities went to court to prevent the state from using $1.7 billion for other purposes.
On Friday, the League of California Cites was party to another suit to ensure $130 million of vehicle taxes was retained and directed to newly formed cities such as Jurupa and Menifee, rather than other purposes.
These are all good programs; I’m not disputing any one of these actions. But what happens if they win? What will the Legislature do?
If you adamantly don’t want any tax increases, what programs do go? Schools, parks, CHP, CAL FIRE, what is unnecessary? Please tell our legislators.
Yet, I understand the anti-tax view — California taxes are nearly $40 billion dollars more than the $73 billion collected in 2001, and the peak was only $1.2 billion less in 2007. The increase exceeds 50 percent during the “Great Recession.” So why do we need more?
In Californialand, the sum of the parts far exceeds the whole. This catastrophe has resulted in the greatest level of state debt in history.
We are a ship adrift without any leadership. Everybody insists they’re right and somebody else better compromise. What are you doing to solve the problem?