A Dialog On California State Spending

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
Over at Calitics there is an interesting diary from ‘zeroh8′ asking “Why Are We Spending So Much More?”  zeroh8 looked at the changes over the last ten years in how the state spends money.  The result, according to the diary, is a per-capita increase of $1088 as follows:

California Government Department
2007-08 less 1997-98 Per Capita Spending

Criminal Justice $185
General Government $14
Health $265
Higher
Education $109
K-12 Education $399
Resources & Environmental
Protection $27
Social Services $59
Transportation $30
Total $1,088 

Robert Cruikshank commented that the appearance of an education spending increase is an illusion, (sadly California still ranks 47th in education spending-per-pupil)

Much of the “increase” in K-12 funds is illusory. When Arnold cut the VLF in
2003 that money had to be backfilled by the state. That backfilling is listed on
the books as “spending” and so it appears as a huge “spending increase” when in
fact it is no such thing. Schools didn’t actually get more money. It’s an
accounting trick.

Robert is pointing out that this appearance of a large increase in education spending is actually just replacing spending that was already there, but that was cut from local budgets when Governor Schwarzenegger cut the Vehicle License Fee, so the state had to make up (backfill) the loss.  The state is spending more because local governments are spending less, but the total hasn’t increased.  Lesson: you have to look at the whole picture including local budgets to see the whole story because the state has to step in when local governments lose their funding sources.

Health care spending increases are certainly not isolated to California state government.  This is the health care crisis that is eating up government, business and family budgets around the country.  So far We, the People, in our wisdom, had avoided the kind of “socialized medicine” that the rest of the world has, which means we spend vastly more for health care with vastly worse results.  There is little California can do about it, except to further deny health care to people.  Is that the kind of people we will decide to be? 

Then there is that huge increase in criminal justice (prison) spending.  Was that necessary?  Well, we decided to pass laws that put people in prison for life for stealing a pizza or for years for smoking a joint.  And in the last few decades we have cut education spending, which to some extent has necessitated the increases in prison spending, because we know where that inevitably leads,

“18-to-24-year-old male high school dropouts have an incarceration rate 31 times
that of males who graduated from a four-year college”      

We’re seeing the health care crisis eating the state budget, and the problem of the prison costs.  Part of our problems today are because yesterday we were “penny wise
and pound foolish,” saving some money by cutting education only to
spend it on prisons (and who knows how many other ways) later.  Along with foolish tax cuts like cutting the VLF, and cutting property taxes for big corporations, and instead borrowing which has led to huge interest payments, those are the spending problems that brought about the budget crisis and that keep our government from being able to spend more on things We, the People need.

About those choices:  zeroh8 did a ton of research because no California citizen would know any of this from sources available to most of us.  The corporate media is not explaining the state budget and the functions of government to the public.  The example of the state making up local revenue losses in order to save our schools is a great example — instead it is just presented to people that the state is “spending even more”.

So what is the point of this exercise? To give the people the facts, not the phony sound-bites designed to further anger people against government and rail even further about having to pay taxes to fund the programs and services. The goal of the conservatives is to simply unfund government, thus making “We the People” powerless against the big moneyed interests — the people who brought you the sub-prime fiasco, the Wall Street boondogles, the Haliburton no-bid contracts and the Blackwater mercenaries.  As long as the bucks are flowing, what do they care if government can’t do its job…. what do they care about long lines at the DMV, wildfires that burn down communities, gangs that take over our streets and oh, yes……swine flu epidemics that kill millions?  They can just fly away in their private jets or sail away on their yachts — that California won’t tax.
Click through to Speak Out California and leave a comment.

California Republicans Admit Taxes Needed – Still Refuse To Allow Them

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This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
California Republicans finally, finally submitted what they claim is a plan to attack the budget deficits, detailing specifics of the cuts they are demanding. The plan they submitted only cuts the deficit in half, thereby admitting (but not admitting) the urgent need to raise taxes to cover the other half of the deficit.
The Republican plan guts public schools, community colleges, Medi-Cal, transit, mental health and many other programs. And yet it still leaves half of the deficit in place. So it isn’t really a “plan” at all. It is just one more extremist demand that we gut public schools.
A phrase like “guts schools and programs” becomes abstract when it is heard often enough. So what does this mean to the average Californian? What kind of education will children receive as we push to 40 or more students per classroom? Will they be safe if the district cannot afford crossing guards or buses? Will any of us be safe after police and firefighters are cut back? Do we go another decade without improving mass transit or even repairing roads and bridges? Will epidemics spread as health care is cut back? What about three-hour lines at the DMV? And what happens to people’s ability to train for jobs when community colleges are cut way back?
The Republicans demand that we sacrifice the education of an entire generation of school-aged Californians, so that a few wealthy people and corporations can become even wealthier! Their benefactors are covered — with their kids are in $20,000-a-year private academies. But what will this do to the economic future of the rest of this generation, and to the future of California? They don’t care.
This process as it has unfolded over so many years has shown us that California is ungovernable until we remove the current 2/3-requirement system that allows a small group of extremists to hold the state hostage.
Click through to Speak Out California.

Choices on Taking and Giving Back

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
In Dubai, people get free housing, free medical care, AND $5,000 per month. The people of Dubai share in the country’s oil wealth.
In Alaska, people not only do not pay state taxes, the state government writes every state resident a check every year. The people of the state of Alaska share in the state’s oil wealth.

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