Meltdown continues

Dismantling the programs that keep California healthy

The best thing about the state budget that was passed and signed last week, a record 100 days after it was due, is that it exists. It will keep the state operating, at least for a while. But whoever wins the governor race next month will have a real mess on his or her hands.

That’s because the budget is backfilled with borrowing, wishful thinking and rosy scenarios. It assumes, for example, that the federal government will give California $5.4 billion. Fat chance of that. And, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, it contains “$2.7 billion in loans, loan payment extensions, transfers, and fund shifts from special funds,” all of which must be repaid.

And, with temporary sales-tax hikes put in place last year due to expire next year, we’ll be looking at another huge deficit, in the $10 billion to $20 billion range.

The biggest cuts? The budget suspends education’s Prop. 98 guarantees and cuts $3.1 billion from K-12 funding. It takes another $1.1 billion from prisons, mostly from inmate medical care.

On top of that, Gov. Schwarzenegger used his veto power to slash another $1 billion, mostly from safety-net programs like CalWORKs, child care and medical clinics.

The only winners, if that’s the right word, are the University of California and California State University, both of which received an additional $200 million partly to compensate for larger cuts made last year. The CSU also received an additional $60.6 million for enrollment growth. That’s good news for Chico State—and for the local economy.

What we’re seeing here is the gradual meltdown and dismantling of state government. That’s what the Republicans in the Legislature want, apparently. They keep talking about waste, fraud and abuse, but what gets cut are vital programs—education, health care, job training—that we depend on in order to have a healthy society.