California meltdown

A biweekly flyover of the state budget crisis

Did you know that since Jan. 11 the Legislature has been in emergency session to deal with an $8.9 billion shortfall in the current 2009-10 budget? Would you be surprised to learn it’s gotten nowhere? I didn’t think so. Not that there hasn’t been plenty of other action on the meltdown front.

Weds., Jan. 20: Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters reports that ProPublica, a public-interest journalism fund, reports that California’s unemployment-insurance fund has gone deeper into debt than any other state’s. It’s borrowed more than $6 billion from the federal government, more than three times as much as New York, the second-biggest borrower of UI funds.

Weds., Jan. 20: State officials, led by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, fly to Washington, D.C., hoping to convince Congress that California is being shortchanged on tax allocations and to give it $7 billion to help fill the budget shortfall.

Fri., Jan. 22: UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access issues its annual Educational Opportunity Report. Reduced state spending on education, it states, is making it more difficult for schools to cope. It notes that California was already near the bottom in per-pupil funding before the recent round of budget cuts and also fares poorly in academic achievement.

Sun., Jan. 24: In a Field Poll, only 27 percent of California voters approve of the job Gov. Schwarzenegger is doing, and only 7 percent believe he will leave the state in better shape. The approval figure for legislators is even lower: 16 percent.

Mon., Jan. 25: The Los Angeles Times reports that union groups are gearing up to fight Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals, which they say would cut the size of the union workforce, reduce pay, shrink future pensions and roll back job protections. “The public sector also has to take a haircut,” the governor told the Times.

Tues., Jan 26: The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office recommends that lawmakers reject Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed ballot measure to dedicate more money to universities than prisons. The measure is “unnecessary” and “ill-conceived” and “would do serious harm to the budget process,” the report states.

Tues., Jan. 26: In a press release, Butte County Public Works Director Mike Crump announces that a comprehensive study has found that the state’s local-transportation system “is on the brink of crisis.” On a scale of 0 to 100, the state rates 68 on the Pavement Condition Index, placing it in the “at risk” category. In Butte County, the rate is 65.

Weds., Jan. 27: A story at the online California Progress Report notes that Children Now, an advocacy group protecting children, has given the state its “worst grades ever” for 2009.

Weds., Jan. 27: The state Board of Equalization reports that taxable sales declined by 12 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Weds., Jan. 27: The LAO recommends lawmakers go along with Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut state employee compensation, saying the state’s fiscal woes warrant it.

Weds., Jan. 27: Most Californians would be willing to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding for education, the Public Policy Institute finds. They prefer that cuts be made in the corrections budget.