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Time for drastic measures to save California

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POSTED September 19, 2010 2:28 a.m.
Is California going bankrupt?

That is the only possible conclusion given the never-ending budget stalemate and the fact the deficit keeps growing and rolling over from year-to-year. The California Legislature has used every smoke, and mirror trick and shell game they can. They are now out of tricks.

The scary thing is that there are folks in Sacramento who still believe raising taxes will solve all of their problems. That may help state workers but it certainly will multiple the pain and suffering in the private sector that has already been bludgeoned severely.

If the state were a private enterprise the creditors a longtime ago would have demanded reorganization and hounded the courts to send it into receivership.

So what can be done?

There’s only one thing to do - shut down the state.

That sounds nuts but look at the numbers. There is a $20 billion deficit. There are 240,538 employees according to the California State Controller’s Office. They are paid $1.4 billion monthly. Even if every last one of them was laid off for a year, it would save only $16.8 billion leaving a $3.2 billion deficit.

Of course one can’t simply shut down prisons, the CHP, Caltrans and other services. But there are other agencies that you can.

Start with the Department of Education. Lay them all off. Shift the auditing function of school monies to county offices of education that are already doing part of it anyway. They can work directly with the controller’s office.

Close down the Department of Water Resources for a year or two. Given the progress they haven’t made concerning flood and water storage needs over the last 20 years they won’t be missed. If you are worried about water quality and pollution there are still plenty of state agencies left to handle that task.

Suspend any admissions into the University of California system or the California State University campuses for a year. Reduce staffs or salaries by a corresponding 25 percent.

Is it an outlandish proposal? Not really. That education isn’t going to be worth much to anyone if the state goes under.

Get rid of all of the fluff. Start with the California Arts Council. We don’t need to spend $5.7 million a year to have the state support the arts when the state can’t even support the schools.

And can the refrain, “Gee, $5.7 million won’t make much difference when we’re talking about a $20 billion deficit.”

How many households faced with critical financial decisions can say, “Gee, spending $60 for cable TV service won’t make a difference when we have to cut expenses by $800 a month to stay afloat.”

Pull the plug on the fast track to state insolvency – the high speed rail.

Selling bonds for the train to shave time from a fairly well off passengers’ trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles isn’t worth it especially since it eats up precious bonding capacity that the state may need even if it manages to go on a severe spending diet.

Those are a few suggestions for starters.

Most will scoff at such ideas labeling them outrageous or unacceptable but what are the alternatives? Raise taxes until we drive more people into financial ruin? Perhaps keep spending like there is no tomorrow so that our kids will inherit a Third World economy complete with government services that reflect that reality?

The day of reckoning is long overdue and it’s not just the 81 days that the state is late in adopting a budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.

We are now dealing with a paralysis brought on not by a sudden economic train wreck but 25 years of ignoring basic state funding and spending problems which explains why only six times in the last quarter of a century California has had a budget adopted by the constitutional deadline.

The party is over. It’s time to sober up and get this state into rehab before it spends itself to death.
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