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Combating the Crisis

by Susannah Kopecky, published

February 1 has come and gone, and the California government has not yet shut down.

Walking around the typical California town, one could even go so far as to say that things feel exactly the same way they did before February 1.

Why February 1, you might be asking?

It was the doomsday predicted by some California government leaders as the day by which if the state budget issue wasn't resolved, things would start to change, the state would go broke, and the government might have to shut down. Judging by the successful mail delivery today, things haven't gone completely to, well, a bad place.

February 5 marked the beginning of furloughs for about 200,000 state employees. Not great, but jobs were not lost in the process. February 11 marked the possibility of a turning point, as representatives from the governor's office and state officials divulged that a budget "framework" had been agreed upon. (February 11 also marked the 98th day of the legislature's "failure to act," as counted down by the governor's office, and also came two days before the threatened state employee layoffs were to begin).

Unfortunately, some of the unofficial details of the framework were more upsetting and comforting. If true, Californians will face some rather ugly details. On top of current financial woes, residents may also see 2.5 percent increase in property taxes, an increase in the sales tax and a $0.12 increase in the gas tax, among other things.

The governor knows better than anybody at this point just how stretched the resources of the California budget are: as it is, the state is staring at a $42 billion price tag, and that estimate isn't even a generous one. The governor has still managed to speak out on the importance of green energy and decreasing fuel emissions over the last month, but as a pragmatist, he must realize that lofty ideals cannot come before what is necessary. In a statement earlier last month, the governor discussed the delays in infrastructure projects because of funding woes.

If state politicians don't get serious, and get serious fast about the budget, Californians will be forced out of their comfort zones as politicians are forced to face some harsh realities: Even more job cuts, a populace with fewer extraneous dollars to spend and important choices ahead of what programs are integral and which need to be cut. This is not a time to begin personal projects, but to come together as responsible citizens and fix the problem at hand. Spending on projects with little to no immediate yield is irresponsible in the worst way.

Our state's total financial collapse may not have arrived on February 1, but that's not to say it's not still heading this way.

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