Saturday, December 20, 2008

States Going Broke

I want to thank the Colorado Springs Gazette for excerpting parts of my blog occasionally in their newspaper over these past few months. Oh, say this morning, for example. It's always a pleasant surprise sitting down  with a cup of coffee, opening up the front page, and finding what I wrote in the springsroll. I find that I look at the other community blogs more often, too, curious what the other local voices sound like.

The state of Colorado will be short next year by either 77 million dollars, or up to 600 million, depending on which economic forecast you adhere to. The governor's office is the rosier
 picture, predicting the general fund will increase also, while the non-partisan Legislative Council is coming up with the dire warning. The two groups will actually now work together to figure out why there is such a difference between them, and hopefully, a more real picture will emerge.

The Rocky Mountain News interviewed Henry Sobanet, who helped preside over the 1 billion in budget cuts back in 2004. " As you can imagine, it's the most difficult thing you can do, because the way our budget is, 40 cents on the dollar in the general fund goes to K-12 education, and another 20 cents goes to Medicaid, and for a variety of reasons those are off limits, so you end up having disproportionate cuts in other areas of the budget." 

It's times like these I always wonder where the money supposedly raised by the state lottery is going. But the belt tightening is trickling down to all counties and cities, even though it's reported that other states are worse off. One thing for sure, as prisons and police get laid off, robberies and violent crime will rise.

Take California, please... It's predicted that it will go broke in February, with a 5 billion deficit in March. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has just issued an order that all state employees will take two days off per month without pay, and manager's salaries will also be lowered to reflect that cut. The legislature had just passed a budget but he said that it will be rejected because it doesn't go far enough in cuts, and that the proposed salary cuts were unspecified. So, he called the legislature back into session and said that they won't go home until the budget problem is satisfactorily solved.

As you can imagine, the reaction was not kind, as reported in the LA Times: "The situation is out of control," said Walker, who represents 95,000 people, the largest number of unionized white-collar state workers. "With the state's economy heading towards a cliff, Gov.
 Schwarzenegger has pushed the state's fiscal crisis into catastrophe."

Walker said the new layoffs will come on top of 10,000 job cuts made in the last year.

The Assn. of California State Supervisors objected that managers were being singled out for potential pay cuts and layoffs on a day when the state unemployment rate rose to 8.4%, the worst in 14 years.

Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico (D-Newark) and other Democratic lawmakers issued a statement condemning the order by the governor, who negotiates state employee contracts.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger may be Hollywood royalty, but that doesn't make California a monarchy," the statement said. "Part of his core responsibility is to negotiate deals with employees."

Of course, California's situation is unique, because to really solve their budget crisis, all the governor has to do is make another movie or two. And he could start a trend, casting real politicians in them. Would they be villains or heroes, as reflected in real life?

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