“People are asking if California is governable.” Governor Schwarzenegger said in the State of the State address today that California faces insolvency within weeks. He said there is more gridlock in Sacramento than on our roads, if that is possible.
The governor gave a very short speech, saying there is no sense talking about education or infrastructure or water or anything else as long as we have this huge $42 billion deficit.
But the fact remains that the state’s requirement that 2/3 budget-approval requirement means that the state is, in effect, ungovernable. A few anti-government extremists are able to continue to block the budget, refusing to compromise or even negotiate, demanding that the state lay off tens of thousands of workers, slash medical help for the elderly, slash police protection and firefighting capability, slash funding for courts, raise class sizes to 40 or 50 students, stop repairing roads and levees and everything else the state government does.
David Greenwald writes at California Progress Report wrote, in State of the People is Grim: More Budget Cuts Are Exactly the Wrong Prescription,
“Budget cuts totaling $16 billion over the last three years have already
had severe consequences for the people of California. And the
Governor’s proposed 09-10 budget would further harm California families
and our economy with an additional $17 billion in cuts to schools,
health care, homecare, and state services.”
Leading up to the speech, David Dayen at Calitics wrote, in The State Of The State Is, Well, You Know, “Typically he has done this speech to coincide with the evening news. This year he’s trying to hide it.”
We at Speak Out California want to invite readers to come up with some solutions for the budget mess. We are working on some ideas for a prize for the best ideas.
I don’t think California is “ungovernable.” The yearly battle over securing 2/3 approval strikes me as nothing more than political theater — Sacramento’s version of pro-wrestling, including the “Terminator” as special guest star.
Why can’t the legislature try this? Assuming that there is broad agreement on most of the budget — the part necessary to keep existing essential services and agencies going, or the parts that are already mandated by law — why not start out what a “fallback” or “baseline” budget, and pass this budget right away? Then, use the rest of the time, up to the statutory deadline, arguing over over amendments to that budget. What gets in by the deadline gets in, what doesn’t, doesn’t. But never would the State actually be without a budget. Of course, we would be deprived of the drama in our daily newspapers and newscasts, and the Democrats would be without someone, at whom to point the finger of blame. Personally, I prefer drama in the newspaper and a vigorous blame game over a practical budget any day, don’t you?
The point of the 2/3 vote requirement was that there should be broad agreement on what passes. How hard is it to RESTRICT the budget to only those things on which there is broad agreement and let that be the end of it? It is apparently impossible for the majority Democrats, though, even though runaway spending is bankrupting the State.
Clearly, the problem isn’t the 2/3 restriction. It is the ambition of our elected officials to push the spending envelope at every opportunity. The “pushing the envelope mentality” doesn’t make this State ungovernable, but is does make the government dysfunctional, which amounts to much the same thing, so I can understand the confusion.