Posted on 09 September 2010.
The California state budget for fiscal year 2010-11 is currently undergoing intense scrutiny in Sacramento after a gridlock between Democrats and Republicans. The legislature up until this point has not been able to produce the voting consensus needed in order to officially approve the budget plan.
It is this delay that has been exasperated by extended periods of debate along the two major party lines over classic battleground ideology, cutting taxes or imposing tax hikes. These factors are of particular interest seeing how the state budget currently fails to make up for most of a $19 billion deficit.
After a couple days of deadlock the plan moving forward remains to be a proposed tax swap, decreases in sales tax to be enacted this year followed by increases in next year’s income taxes.
While this sounds productive for holiday spending it does not address the major issues of concern which have been looming in California for quite some time. This refers to the demographics and competing interests which come into conflict with each other when legislatures and committees decide who gets what.
Specifically major issues revolve around the big four: K-12, health and welfare, higher education, and corrections. All of these represent different levels of priority for different groups in our increasingly diverse state.
One example is this year’s widely held student protests against budget cuts to higher education.
According to Jean Ross of the California Budget Project, “At the very least the new proposal has worse consequences for the middle class than it does the wealthy in 2010-11.”
A fact about the California budget is that it is ever changing as legislatures and analysts can only predict shortfalls and revenue to a certain extent. With the state’s demographics changing and population increasing there is significant strain on almost all programs.
Since seniors are living longer than in past years and “baby boomers” are about to join them California’s health care system will have to endure increasing strain. Also, with one of the highest state populations in the country, where 5-18 year old’s are reaching record levels, the same can be said about K-12 and higher education systems.
This year more students have enrolled while there has been a reduction in funding, teachers and basic courses. The fact remains the same for most programs all while state revenues are not matching the need for increasing efficiency and infrastructure that call for more spending in a deficit.
With no full-proof solutions in place disagreements on the best way to proceed will continue to flower.
According to Barbara O’Conner, director emeritus of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento, “There are a ton of undecided out there and so there will be lots of unhappy campers out there on the campaign trail if we don’t have a state budget.”
With November’s election drawing near there’s no telling what direction the budget will take further down the road, but what can be said is that the two running candidates have similar yet competing interests.
Both candidates claim they know what’s best for California’s schools, jobs and social programs.
According to Republican candidate, and former E-Bay CEO, Meg Whitman, she “will institute a system that grades our schools A-F. Meg will also support other interventions for under-performing schools, such as school closures and staff replacement, to hold schools accountable for their performance.”
Meg Whitman’s brochure mentions public schools and the UC system but fails to mention community colleges.
Democratic candidate Attorney General Jerry Brown mentions them directly however.
Brown states, “Per pupil spending lags behind most other states … higher education is also suffering in California, especially in the last decade. From a system that was essentially tuition free, fees have skyrocketed at both the University of California and California State University systems. When I was Governor … the state devoted three to four times more to higher education than to prisons; today that ratio is even. That’s not right.”
Either way one looks both claim to have solutions to a very real and worsening problem, and the current budget is sure to change in the time to come in light of the different approaches. This coincides with the inability of the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) and legislatures to predict exactly how the economy and demographics will continue to change.
The state budget affects the well being of the state and all who reside in California. If looking for a more active role in this matter remember to vote in this November’s election.