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California desperate for solutions

by Wes Messamore, published

Earlier this week, California missed another constitutionally mandated deadline to pass a state budget. Policymakers are reeling from the enormous, seemingly impossible task of bridging an approximately $19 billion budget deficit.

A dour Mecury News editorial opined: "It's a measure of how broken state government really is. Like a community that no longer even notices broken windows in schools or graffiti all over neighborhoods, the apathy toward the state's dysfunction is the ultimate sign of despair."

For an international perspective, one Canadian news outlet actually called California "Greece on the Pacific" after listing examples of the state's corresponding dysfunctions and quoting an LA County court reporter of 34 years as saying "People think we’re becoming a Third World country. They don't understand."

The court reporter's statement is no exaggeration with California's bond rating lower than Kazakhstan's, meaning that investors see California's debt as riskier than Kazakhstan's.

If California were a country, it would be among the top ten most productive economies in the world, yet its budget situation is so dire that creditors would rather lend to Kazakhstan than to the Golden State. That's how serious California's budget crisis has become.

Why are lawmakers at a budget impasse?

Republicans want massive spending cuts and refuse to raise taxes, while Democrats urge tax increases, especially on corporations.

The Los Angeles Times recommends a sort of middle ground between the two partisan positions. Instead of raising taxes on corporations like Democrats want, or cutting spending on state services and welfare programs like Republicans want, California could just cut spending on corporate welfare.

Other groups say that if California can't fix its budget problems right away, it should at least end budget gridlock by eliminating the 2/3rds requirement and allowing the Legislature to pass budgets by a simple majority vote.

Meanwhile, The Sacramento Bee suggests another reason entirely for the budget holdup:

"The Legislature's failure to pass a state budget by its constitutional deadline played a key role Wednesday in killing a proposed pay cut for lawmakers and other top officeholders, according to members of the state's pay panel."

Whatever its causes may be, this week's missed deadline is the exclamation mark on a number of indications that California is desperate for solutions.

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