Latest budget deal tarnishes Golden State

Katy Grimes: The sheen has come off of the once-golden state.

As the Assembly and Senate sessions began yesterday morning, only minutes before, the three-volume legislative budget bill books were dropped on legislators’ desks… fresh from the state printer.

Which begs the question, if the state printer had sufficient lead time to get the voluminous bill printing done, why is it that advance copies of the budget weren’t even sent in a PDF format to members of the Assembly and Senate?

…which also means that the latest version of the budget had not been properly analyzed by policy staff.

This is evidence of more of the game-playing that certain legislators in leadership positions are rather notorious for. Yet, Assembly Speaker John Perez stood on the Assembly floor yesterday morning and said, “From the moment I was sworn in as Speaker, I have consistently said that this budget must be arrived at in an open and transparent process. The people of California have every right and expectation to know what decisions their leaders are making, and in a year where we face such enormous challenges, the expectation of transparency becomes an imperative of transparency.”

When most responsible adults undertake the process of creating a budget, it is with the intention of adhering to it. Or at the very least, to figure out how much income is needed to cover expenditures, and whether or not one is living within one’s means — which is what makes the latest budget charade at the state Capitol, another sham. The governor will sign this budget, and within hours, the state will be in a deficit position.

Any “budget” that has a $10 billion “assumption” of revenue, can’t be even remotely accurate. It is with hopeful and wishful thinking, that the state expects to get $5.4 billion from the federal government for welfare, education and prisons.

And I am hopeful that my rich auntie will leave me her estate – this year, so I can spend on myself like a spoiled, trust fund child.

And while the Republicans stood fast on cuts and no new taxes, the accounting gamesmanship is evident. The budget includes $2 billion in “internal borrowing” — a phrase used to describe the shifting around of state funds, which will have to be somehow paid back later. And, $2 billion in payments to schools and community colleges are slated to be pushed into the next fiscal year… for the next group of legislators to figure out.

The budget plan includes the ridiculous accounting game of the sale of 11 state office buildings, for $1.2 billion, which the state will still occupy by leasing from the new owner, at a long-term cost to the state of an additional $40 million. This is a fantastic deal for the buyer.  However, this smelly real estate deal demonstrates that state leaders are making decisions for the here-and-now, and don’t seem to care much about the long term financial health of California or taxpayers.

Republican Assembly leader Martin Garrick, wrote in his statement of the new budget deal, “Averting the Democrats demands for income, oil, and car tax hikes are significant accomplishments.  We were also able to avoid a new home insurance tax, millions in water fees, and new fines from speed enforcement cameras.  Every plan Liberal Democrats put forward prior to the final compromise included billions of dollars in new taxes, many of which would have disproportionately hurt middle-class Californians.”

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said. “This budget is a product of the most severe economic crisis we have faced in decades,” Steinberg said.  “While this year’s budget agreement includes billions in painful and difficult cuts, it also recognizes that our future economic success depends upon maintaining key investments in our people and our state.  I am pleased we were able to maintain the level of education funding we did, minimize cuts to vital services, achieve collectively bargained agreements and accomplish some key reforms.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office prepared an overview of this budget.

It’s going to be a rough year for California residents, but especially for Assembly and Senate leaders, if rumors within the Capitol have any merit.

OCT. 8, 2010

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