You know you’re in for a long day at work when the head honcho tells you to bring a toothbrush. And so it is for California lawmakers, who have a tough choice on what’s going to be a very long work day: either pass the $40 billion budget on the table, or 20,000 state employees get layoff notices.
The budget woes for the world’s eighth-largest economy have been going on for months and months, with the stalemate being the issues of taxation and spending cuts. Minority Republicans consider it “political suicide” to vote for any budget that would increase taxes, Democrats have been resistant to cut social service programs, and Governor Schwarzenegger has insisted that a workable budget must include both spending decreases and tax increases.
Which is to say that they’ve all been arguing about the same thing for over 6 months. Last week Gov. Schwarzenegger finally came to agreement with legislative leaders on a budget that includes $15.1 billion in spending reductions, $14.4 billion in tax increases and $11.4 billion in borrowing. Republicans refused to break party ranks due to the tax increases, and the package missed being passed yesterday by 1 vote in the Senate.
In the meantime, California faces financial insolvency and the defecit is at a whopping $42 billion. Last month the state put taxpayers, contractors, counties and social service agencies on the IOU list to keep education funded. While some people might wonder whether Schwarzenegger has the fortitude to follow in Bill Clinton’s steps and shut down the government, simple math will reveal an unfortunate reality: even if you fire all the state’s employees and ditch the Legislature that seems incapable of getting California out of this mess, the state is still $16B short of the defecit number.
The remaining $16B could be obtained by shutting down all California university systems and the community colleges. Or by convincing investors that California is a better place for their money than Kurdistan.
We therefore award a Fantasy T-Wearer award to Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the “Today I feel bankrupt” T-shirt at right.
So if you live in California and you’re wondering why the heck somebody tore up your freeway and made the traffic worse only to seemingly abandon the project, now you know why. On the plus side, your kid can still go to school. Today, anyway.