Final thoughts at the end of another budget crisis: There are no illusions about what happened in Sacramento last week. One more time, the governor and the state Legislature failed to make the hard choices about spending priorities and the structure of state government. One more time, they failed to address a tax system that is both inequitable and unreliable. One more time, they needed accounting gimmicks and borrowed money to maintain the pretense that the budget is balanced.
For a few weeks at least, the state may be spared insolvency, but nothing has changed. With the jobless rate rising and tax revenues declining, with a government crippled by partisanship and institutional inertia, it’s only a matter of time until the state faces a new crisis. And, going forward, the deficit numbers get larger.
There will be another budget shortfall – and more stop-gap measures designed to defer the hard choices long enough for termed-out politicians to win election to some other job.
It’s the same dreary story line: Unless and until mainstream voters take back their government from the political schemers and the special interest groups, these ongoing divisions will mean unnecessary reductions in public services and a continuing loss of faith in what we once called the California dream. How sad for a state that has meant so much to all of us.
Note: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the package of budget bills on Tuesday, presumably after using his blue pencil to eliminate another $1.1 billion in spending. Two measures to help close the budget deficit failed in the legislature.