Mega-Millions mess

Republicans like to talk about the fat in state government and how it easily could be trimmed away to balance the state budget. As we show, however, in a Newslines story this week on proposed cuts in local mental-health services ("Clinics’ crisis exposes woes,” page 11), the “fat” being trimmed is in fact vital services on which people—in this case, nearly 1,000 emotionally fragile adults and youths—depend for stability.

It’s astonishing to us that, even after proposing cuts to health and welfare services that are going to make life much harder for tens of thousands of people, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger still can’t balance the budget and must instead do so by selling bonds against future lottery revenues—that is, if voters are willing to approve such a tactic come November.

That’s right, he wants to spruce up the state’s own long-outdated casino and balance the budget on the backs of gamblers.

He’s clearly desperate, caught between his ideological unwillingness to find new sources of revenue and his inability to cut important programs, and between a Democratic majority in the Legislature that doesn’t want to cut anything and a Republican minority that would prefer gridlock to compromise. It’s a quandary, but it’s the very quandary Schwarzenegger promised to solve when he was elected in 2003.

Long-term solutions to the state’s cockamamie budgeting system are needed and should be part of any budget recommendation, but for now we need something better than what we’re getting: gimmicks, borrowing and pie-in-the-sky lottery schemes.

Maybe you can do better. A Palo Alto nonprofit organization named Next 10 has come up with an innovative interactive “California Budget Challenge” that you can take by going to The challenge takes only a few minutes and is remarkably educational about the budgeting process and possible sources of revenues (carbon tax, anyone?).