Pain is in the forecast with state budget cuts
It is easy to turn off the television or flip the page to the next news story when the subject matter is California’s state budget. Don’t. This is a serious matter. With a shortfall of nearly $35 billion, there is not a single person in the state who will not be affected.
Gov. Gray Davis outlined his $96.4 billion budget plan for 2003-04 on Friday. Taxes will be raised, programs cut and jobs eliminated — some coming midyear and not waiting for the next fiscal year.
Now is not the time to place blame on how we got into this predicament. Now is the time for legislators on both sides of the political spectrum to come together.
If you do not like what the governor has proposed, come up with something better. Criticism without alternatives is a waste of everyone’s time.
Let’s get a workable budget passed. Then let’s take a look back in an attempt to move forward. We cannot be going through this financial drama year in and year out. We need to learn to be fiscally responsible — which means not overspending when cash is plentiful. It means saving for a rainy day, it means saying no to pet projects and evaluating spending based on the program or project’s merits and not whose political good graces one might get in. It will mean not relying on volatile money sources such as capital gains taxes.
What lawmakers are doing in Sacramento should matter to all of us.
One area where we are all bound to be hit is at the checkout stand. Davis wants to raise the state sales tax by 1-cent on the dollar. The typical family will fork out between $200 and $250 more a year because of this. It will raise the price of a $15,000 car by $150. What it will do for the state coffers is raise about $4.6 billion.
Despite running his first gubernatorial campaign as the future education governor, Davis’ legacy is not likely to be seen as such. He has vowed to keep the 1988 Proposition 98 voter mandated education spending minimums in place — but still, the cuts could be devastating.
About half of the state’s general fund spending goes to schools. Davis is asking for a midyear cut of $2.7 billion from his original $46 billion budget for K-12 education.
Educators fear class-size reduction, after-school and summer school programs will go by the wayside.
California Teachers Association President Wayne Johnson said with the state ranked 40th in funding, Davis’ proposal will have the state ranked near the bottom.
Diane Scheerhorn, superintendent of Lake Tahoe Unified School District, is wearing out erasers trying to come up with numbers that will keep the district afloat.
Already Lake Tahoe Community College President Guy Lease predicts the more than doubling of fees per unit will make higher education unattainable for many.
There are 108 community colleges in the state that educate 1.8 million students. Chancellor Tom Nussbaum predicts there will be 146,000 fewer students next year because of the spike in fees.
President George W. Bush could make matters worse for Californians with his tax plan. With tax codes being interwoven, the elimination of taxes on corporate dividends could make stocks more attractive than bonds issued by states and cities.
The Bush administration contends the cuts are good for long-term growth.
California state Treasurer Phil Angelides is wary of the federal proposal. It will almost certainly mean investors will not buy bonds “at a time we have enormous infrastructure needs.”
Already it is expensive for California to borrow because last month Standard & Poor’s dropped its rating on California bonds to the lowest level of any state.
The federal government needs to be looking for ways to help states, not put them into further debt.
California needs to get its financial house in order with the understanding those in Washington, D.C., are not going inflame an already volatile situation.
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