Thursday, August 02, 2007

Frustrated and broke

I am no Republican, to be sure, but I'm generally much less adversarial toward them than I used to be. But current events surrounding the state budget might once again change my mind.

They're saying they won't reconvene to work on the budget until August 20th. This affects me, pisses me off, rather, on a couple levels. First, I am currently providing services to the state as a vendor. As you know, I am not receiving steady paychecks. Vendors can't be paid by the state until the budget is passed. Fortunately, I have money in the bank, but this stalemate is affecting my ability to make plans for the next few months. Additionally, I'm more personally affronted because Savvy was unable to attend my birthday outing because of the budget impasse. They didn't get anything done, as far as I'm concerned, and now they're heading back to their districts while I scrape by on by savings and unemployment checks-- some of which I can't receive because I "earned" money, even if I can't be paid.

Sometimes, being in Sacramento is a frustrating experience.

Aside from the personal effects of this budget stalemate, there are policy implications. It is my understanding that the budget is, in part, being held up because of Republicans' concerns over Jerry Brown's activities as Attorney General. This notion, that pet legal, not spending, issues can constitute a basis for a government shutdown, is absurd. Arnold hasn't convened a Big 5 meeting, though this is in some ways a more democratic approach. What is perhaps less democratic is the requirement of a supermajority for budget passage. California is one of a few states that requires more than a 51 or 55 percent vote. Since so much of our budget is pre-determined by initiatives passed over the years by state voters, it is very hard to shave spending.

I know that anti-tax folks (which is a majority of the state, regardless of party affiliation), and government skeptics will argue that there should be plenty of money to get done what needs doing, but without flexibility, it becomes nearly impossible to develop creative solutions to the budget. As the economy slows, and as demands on limited state resources increase, I can imagine that these budget battles will grow even more contentious. I'm just not certain that fighting over the budget will ever accomplish anything positive for the state of California, without serious consideration being given to reform, and, unpopularly, taxes.

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