Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
No state budget – again. What’s the answer?
–Resigned in Reseda.

Hey Resigned,
Since outlawing Republicans is not feasible – I know, I’ve tried – we have to look at alternatives. Bake sales, auctioning off surplus state property, eliminating all state workers, selling the beloved Julia Pfeifer Burns state park – none of these comes remotely close to covering the shortage.

In times of fiscal stress, I used to drink heavily and dance naked on the beach, but that won’t help, either. Anyway, it’s hard to find a beach in Sacramento. And the ones I normally go to are closed because of budget cuts anyway. But I digress.

We could cover a chunk of the $19 billion shortfall by eliminating the state prison system, and we could cover a lot of the rest by cutting K-3 classes. Or maybe we could just send all kindergartners to prison. We could privatize the lottery, sell a dozen new state office buildings, put a production on tax on Hollywood film-makers – I like that one – and convert our freeways to toll roads statewide. We could charge visitors a special “tourist fee,” boost the sales tax by a nickel, set up a new income tax hit for the wealthy – there are lots of things we can do.

I guess a stupidity tax is out of the question, but I’d at least like to see the Legislature try.

But the fact that we’ve begun the 2010-11 fiscal year without a budget surprises no one. The Capitol is mired in dysfunction, intransigence and hyper-partisanship. Like my first marriage.

And whose fault is that?

It’s the public’s fault. The vast, misinformed, stressed-out, poorly engaged, politically naïve, talk show-pandering public is to blame. The public approved the budget handcuffs for lawmakers and approved draconian cuts in revenue that snowballed over time. The public signed on to a parade of measures to make it harder to raise taxes and approve budgets, and demands that inmates be kept in prison longer, then complains bitterly when those same decisions throw the state under the bus.  Every once in a great while, the public gets it right – Proposition 16 comes to mind. But that was an aberration.

Thank God for the politicians in Sacramento – if we didn’t have them, what would become of us?


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