Posted on 29 September 2010.
For the fifth time under current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger California has failed to pass a budget by the start of the fiscal year. This year’s failure is especially disturbing as legislature has broken its own record set in 2008 for the most days required to pass a budget.
With the state in disarray the lack of urgency in Sacramento is appalling and it’s costing the Golden State, the only state in the country without a budget, $52 million a day for not having its books balanced.
So why are we once again in the position of having no budget passed? The source of the problem dates all the way back to 1933 and the passage of a state ballot measure that required a two-thirds majority or “supermajority” in order to pass the state budget.
Coupled with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which required another supermajority to approve tax increases, California is only one of two states in the Union that requires the supermajority in order to pass the budget and raise taxes.
It’s no wonder that California’s lawmakers, long willing to dig in every July and argue endlessly about the sources and destinations of monies, have topped themselves with their latest impasse – a new record of 88 days at the time of writing, surpassing the 2008 record of 85 days.
With little chance to find the majority needed to pass and unwillingness to compromise on the same old issues – Republicans don’t want to raise taxes while Democrats don’t want to cut even more from programs – the same lawmakers seem more concerned with raking in campaign cash rather than solving the budget crisis.
According to the Los Angeles Times, 12 separate golfing retreats were planned over the summer months as legislators bring out the big guns to impress the people that really matter in their lives: the lobbyists, donors, and special interest groups that have such a stranglehold on government at the state and national level.
The lawmakers have accepted nearly $7 million since the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, about $80,000 for every day the budget remains in limbo. Not surprisingly, California legislators, bleary-eyed following a summer of partying the nights away, are just now waking up to the increasing voter and press criticism stating that they’re not concerned about the average Californian.
The budget impasse is making life extremely difficult for the private vendors that provide the state with services such as providing ink and toner for the state’s printers, supplying food to state prisons, and driving the tankers that provide the California Highway Patrol with gasoline for their cruisers.
These personnel haven’t been paid since July 1 and many of them are only getting by on personal savings or loans.
This past weekend NBC Bay Area News reported that some rural California state parks will run out of toilet paper in the early part of next month, according to a leaked state finance department e-mail.
This may draw a chuckle from some at the thought of hiking around the great state of California with a water bottle in one hand and a roll of Charmin in the other, but there are thousands of Californians who don’t find anything funny about the lack of a budget.
Health clinics that serve the poor are unable to provide services. College students can’t receive their financial aid for school. And, worst of all, some 250,000 children enrolled in state child development programs may not be able to continue as some child care facilities may have to close their doors.
The two main candidates for Governor of the State of California, current Attorney General Jerry Brown (D-Oakland) and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R-Atherton), don’t seem to have any concrete solutions for the budget deficit, which is expected to increase to $23 billion in 2012-13 according to figures from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan fiscal advisor
It’s more of the same tired talk about promising to “engage” Republicans and Democrats and complaining about the “lack of leadership” in Sacramento
Although the Chabot Spectator does not support Meg Whitman for Governor of the State of California, one proposal of hers is worth noting: for each day that future budgets are delayed legislators’ pay will be withheld, their tax-free per diem would be forfeited, and their ability to raise campaign funds would be suspended.
Such penalties against rogue lawmakers would be applauded by the people of California who have suffered long enough thanks to the misplaced priorities of those appointed to govern.
However, the wheels are in motion to have some sort of budget in place as early as next week. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office announced last Thursday, Sept. 23 that the framework was in place for California’s horrendously overdue budget to pass, with a vote expected for Monday.
It’s worth noting that the announcement was made in Santa Monica rather than Sacramento, as a ruthless cold forced the former champion bodybuilder and movie tough-guy to cancel budget meetings and relocate talks to his office in Los Angeles County, which, naturally, cost the state even more money that they didn’t have.
And with some luck, the great budget impasse of 2010 may be the last of its kind. California Proposition 25, sponsored by members of the California State Legislature, is a ballot initiative that, if passed this coming November, would change the current two-thirds majority required for passage of the budget and tax increases to a simple majority vote.
This should hopefully improve the legislature’s shocking record of submitting the budget to the governor by the June 15 constitutional deadline just five times in the past 30 years.
Ultimately, the new governor will inherit more than the annual budget fiasco. California’s highway system, once considered the finest automobile transportation system in the world, is literally crumbling and requires serious rehabilitation, as anyone who’s driven through Downtown Oakland on Interstate 880 can attest.
The state’s schools are also drooping near the bottom of national testing results despite spending anywhere from 52-55 percent of the total state budget on K-12 and higher education.
The time has come for California lawmakers and the governor to sort out this latest budget disaster as the Golden State’s once-sparkling reputation has taken yet another serious blow.