|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
The state of California — its deficits ballooning, its lawmakers intransigent and its governor apparently bereft of allies or influence — appears headed off the fiscal rails.
Since the fall, when lawmakers began trying to attack the gaps in the $143 billion budget that their earlier plan had not addressed, the state has fallen into deeper financial straits, with more bad news coming daily from Sacramento. The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects.
Twenty-thousand layoff notices will go out on Tuesday morning, Matt David, the communications director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Monday night. “In the absence of a budget we need to realize this savings and the process takes six months,” Mr. David said.
After negotiating nonstop from Saturday afternoon until late Sunday night on a series of budget bills that would have closed a projected $41 billion deficit, state lawmakers failed to get enough votes to close the deal and adjourned. They returned to the Capitol on Monday morning and labored into the evening but still failed to reach a deal. They planned to reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday to go at it again.
California has also lost access to much of the credit markets, nearly unheard of among state municipal bond issuers. Recently, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the state’s bond rating to the lowest in the nation.
California’s woes will almost certainly leave a jagged fiscal scar on the nation’s most populous state, an outgrowth of the financial triptych of above-average unemployment, high foreclosure rates and plummeting tax revenues, and the state’s unusual budgeting practices.
“No other state is in the kind of crisis that California is in,” said Iris J. Lav, the deputy director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research group in Washington.
The roots of California’s inability to address its budget woes are statutory and political. The state, unlike most others, requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to pass budgets and tax increases. And its process for creating voter initiatives hamstrings the budget process by directing money for some programs while depriving others of cash.
In a Legislature dominated by Democrats, some of whom lean far to the left, leaders have been unable to gather enough support from Republican lawmakers, who tend on average to be more conservative than the majority of California’s Republican voters and have unequivocally opposed all tax increases.
Labels: economic death watch