Via OC Progressive, Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, Chair of the Budget Committee, spells out slowly for everyone the structural problems and false assertions about the California budget process. If you have non-political junkie friends who want to understand this in a quick and easy way, pass them this link.
This is a very good place to start. Evans puts the lie to three big myths about California:
1) The "runaway spending" assertion. Um, no. Population and inflation accounts for 68% of the increase. I LOVE how Evans cites the tough on crime sentencing laws as a key element of over-spending, in this case on prisons (20% of the inflation and population-adjusting spending increase). Ballot-box budgeting with no dedicated funding stream (separate from the initiatives voters stopped lawmakers from raiding yesterday, which have funding sources) also contributes to the problem. And there are the prior tax cuts like Prop. 13 and Arnold's VLF cut (which would have filled this ENTIRE current deficit). To cover for this we sell bonds and now have to pay out interest to service that debt. The problems beget more problems, and necessitate more cuts because the conservative veto resists taxes.
2) There's all these "waste" in the budget. Again, no. The Performance Review of 2004 found virtually nothing that would save the state any real money.
3) It's just all that messy partisanship from both sides. No. The Democrats have made $40 billion in cuts over the past several years. The Norquistian Yacht Party won't budget because they don't have to. Evans details the 2/3 requirement and the conservative veto, and cites Norquist himself!
Seriously, pass this to your friends. Facebook it and Twitter about it. If you internalize these concepts, the solutions are obvious - we need to restore democracy and give our elected officials a budget process and a Constitution they can actually navigate.
And while we're at it, let me debunk one other myth. The one that says all California has to do is sell San Quentin and all that surplus property and save the state. Well, the money raised from selling state property would not be able to be used to balance the budget.
Under the terms of Proposition 60A, approved by voters in November 2004, proceeds from the sale of any state surplus property can only be used to pay the interest on $15 billion in budget-balancing bonds sought by the GOP governor and approved by voters in March of the same year.
Once the bonds are paid off - the Legislative Analyst estimated at the time that cash from the sale of surplus property would speed retirement of the 30-year notes by a "few months" - sale proceeds would be deposited in the state's reserve account for emergencies.