Some celebration

Who’s paying for the tax savings in the state budget?

State Sen. Doug LaMalfa and Assemblyman Jim Nielsen were in Chico Friday afternoon (July 1), holding a press conference celebrating the fact that the average California family will save about $1,000 a year because of the expiration of the temporary tax and fee increases they and their fellow Republicans in the state Legislature kept the rest of us from voting on.

That’s good news, right? Who doesn’t like to have more money to spend? Of course, missing from LaMalfa and Nielsen’s celebration was a discussion of what these tax reductions are costing California as a whole, and certain groups of Californians in particular.

For example, about 1 million elderly, blind or disabled people will lose about $3,600 each year due to cuts in SSI/SSP. Another 1 million Californians, children of parents enrolled in the CalWORKs job training and education program, will see their families lose $3,000 a year.

And what about the 647,000 students enrolled in the University of California and the California State University systems, which after years of budget cuts are each being asked to slash an additional $650 million? Tuition and fees that have doubled in the last decade are likely to go up another 10 percent or more to offset the cuts. Students are the ones being asked to pay the taxes the rest of us aren’t paying. Lucky us, right?

And then there are the trigger cuts. Nielsen and LaMalfa don’t talk about them, but they’re real. If revenues fall below the budget’s optimistic assumptions, more cuts will be triggered—another $100 million to each of the university systems, for example, and $200 million to health and human services. The public-school year will be cut by seven days, costing some 650,000 staff people seven days’ pay. School busing will be cut. Classrooms will be overcrowded, textbooks not replaced, school libraries and computer labs closed.

But the rest of us saved $1,000. Woo hoo! So what if California is going down the tubes.