Tuesday, February 17, 2009

California Dreamin'--A Nightmare

I'm afraid I might begin to sound like a broken record--does that expression even make sense to people anymore?--but signs of really serious trouble are cropping up everywhere. Last night I read a piece in the Washington Monthly that I wanted to note about California. The New York Times headline says it all: "California, Almost Broke, Nears Brink."

Here's the gist of it: California has a $142 billion state budget. Legislation pending provides $42 million in additional taxes to plug gaping holes in the budget. It is one vote shy of passage in the legislature. (The state requires a two-thirds majority of the legislature to pass a budget. Three--that's one, two, three--Republicans in each house are required to get this majority. At the moment, the Republicans have refused to budge.) After days of negotiation, the whole process is stalemated. Republicans have refused to approve several tax increases necessary to keep the state afloat. In the meantime, the state is going off the cliff. The governor is preparing to layoff 20,000 state workers; dozens of public works projects have stopped; the state is no longer paying its counties, income tax refunds have halted; the state's bond rating is the lowest in the country.

Washington Monthly again:

They need three (3) Republican votes in each house. They can't get them. And this despite the fact that the Republicans who have been negotiating have gotten a lot, including, according to the LATimes, "tax breaks for corporations". Really. I am not making this up. With the state budget $41 billion in deficit, Republicans held out for corporate tax cuts, and then aren't even supporting the resulting bill.

You think that's insane? No, actually that's sound policy compared to this: A bunch of infrastructure projects, some crucial like removal of arsenic, are being canceled because there's no money for them, not a very good idea in a recession anyway. It will cost the state $191 million to do this. It will cost $192 million to start them up again. That's $400 million for absolutely nothing. But the "no taxes" pledge will be maintained, by God.

All this in the name of fiscal responsibility! People are really losing their minds. Is the Republican party willing to see the entire country go down the crapper so they can maintain a discredited, bankrupt (literally), tried-and-failed ideology? Apparently, it doesn't bother them. What's going to happen when the people find out what's really going on? One shudders to think.

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