Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Budget stalemate: When will it end?
|Why is it that we Californians will watch a freeway chase of a car going nowhere fast? Fascinated with the police chase? Waiting for action, even a potential crash? Hoping for the ultimate real-time capture?
Oh for the same attention to Sacramento elected leaders in their “chase” of an illusive, timely, balanced state budget! But officials' glacial pace at solving legitimate problems of crisis proportion and budgetary inaction has become the “new normal” – and the equivalent of watching paint dry.
California's economy is the largest of any state in the U.S. and is the eighth largest economy in the world. Is it not absolutely outrageous that elected leaders can’t seem to put a budget together in a timely fashion? Frankly, at this point almost any budget – including a “kick-the-can-down-the-street-until-the-next-governor” – budget would be better than none. Beyond the partisan snipes and ideological warfare, this state’s millions of residents suffer while our legislators blithely attend to fundraising and upcoming election activity. Where is the constituent outrage?
Well, we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!
Leaders who profess to be “for jobs” are systematically putting tens of thousands of people out of work, in both the public and private sectors. Without a budget, the state cannot operate. And let’s be perfectly clear: This is not an issue of not having enough money. The debate may rage about how much we need and what to spend it on, but the basic fact remains that there is money available to pay salaries, suppliers and bills. But because there’s no budget, bills can’t be paid.
For example, as of Sept. 20, Caltrans no longer has access to money to pay its vendors on critical transportation infrastructure projects – $9 billion worth of state projects already under way. These projects will stop. About $2.1 billion worth of new projects are ready to go, but the contracts can’t be let without a budget. Plus, another $1 billion of bond money that has been authorized by voters for infrastructure, but the general-fund chaos affects the ability of the state to sell those bonds. This $3 billion does not even account for the waste of money caused by stopping projects and then restarting later, the inability to secure low-cost bids now when the economy has driven down costs or the utter devastation to small business vendors that are barely holding on as it is, let alone having to “subsidize” the state of California’s failure to pay its bills.
Lest you think your own life isn’t affected, how about this little consequence: The state’s budget makes it problematic to pay for CHP to perform safety duty during nighttime freeway improvements. Solution? Night projects are stopped; more workers furloughed. Further, this is the time of year that Caltrans buys cinders, salt and bulk fuel for winter road maintenance and snow removal. No budget, no supplies. No supplies, no snowplows during tourist season. No tourists, ski resorts suffer, and the multiplier effects continue. And trucks transporting goods over the I-5 Grapevine in winter? Not a chance.
And education payment deferrals for local schools, city and county government funding raids, housing, safety net, DMV offices closed ... the list goes on and on.
To rephrase Howard Beale from the movie “Network,” I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. Recognize that California has value, even if our elected leaders seem indifferent to its people’s suffering. Get mad! Demand action of your legislator and the governor to get it done NOW.
And be sure to vote Nov. 2.
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