So if you think the gridlock that has stalled Congress and any movement on an economic stimulus package is bad, consider California. For months now, state lawmakers have wrangled over a budget proposal, with Gov. Schwarzenegger pitching seven, yes, seven different plans to address the state’s current $42 billion mid-year budget gap. And none of them, including a proposal from the Dems, have been approved.
Besides frustration, what has such inaction meant in California? Deferrment of tax refunds, for one. Same goes for state grants to college students. On Friday, dozens of state offices closed and more than 200,00 state employees took their first unpaid day off, as part of planned furlough that will last until June 2010.
In schools, officials are bracing for a similiar measure as the governor has given districts the option of ending the school year five days earlier; it’s technically not an option, since the state doesn’t plan on paying schools for the five days either way. In total, school districts across the state will have to slash $2.1 billion from their budgets during this fiscal year— a painful process, but one that schools are at least making movement on, unlike the state.
Legislators have been at an impasse because no one is willing to compromise on the best way to deal with the financial morass. Some want to address it with tax increases, while others want to do it purely through spending cuts.
The reality is the budget will probably have to do a little of both, since aggressive tax hikes would likely dampen consumer spending and drastic budget cuts would endanger critical social services and throw the state into an even deeper black hole. What’s critical, however, is that state officials reach a decision … now. Because their inaction puts everyone, especially schools which are dependent on state funding, at risk.
Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor