California budget woes intensify

The Elephant in the California room. Candidates for governor are mostly ignoring the huge budget deficit. Flickr photo by jcodysimmons

A Sacramento judge ruled last week that the State of California can raid $2 billion of local redevelopment money and use it to pay for schools.

A spokesperson for Gov. Schwarzenegger said “We dodged a bullet. This would have added $2 billion to our deficit.” Well, yes, but that $2 billion comes from local entities, who now will have a shortfall and not be able to fund projects meant to create jobs.

This is robbing Peter to pay Paul, short-sighted, guaranteed to anger and alienate local governments, and is a desperation measure at best. It certainly shows how severe the financial crisis in California has become. It is also a remarkably politically tone-deaf statement for the governor’s office to make, in effect gloating because they took $2 billion not theirs from someplace else.

Not surprisingly, municipalities are rebelling at such a money grab with some, like Sonoma County openly contemplating refusing to pay. This ill-advised money grab is bound to create massive friction and discord between the State of California and local entities. Shouldn’t we be trying to work together here instead?

Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, the presumptive major party candidates for governor, still are not addressing the deficit in any detailed way. Meg Whitman’s campaign site says she will create jobs, cut spending, and fix education, which certainly sounds great. But how will spending be cut when creating jobs and rebuilding schools unquestionably will cost considerable sums? She only alludes to the deficit. Jerry Brown’s site is even worse; it doesn’t mention the deficit at all.

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