To no one’s surprise, for the 23rd time in 24 years, the State of California missed its constitutional deadline to pass a budget. When the new fiscal year begins, the state will have an estimated $19.1 billion deficit.
To find that amount of money in one year, you’d need $601 every second to reach $19.1 billion.
The colossal financial chasm will likely result in millions of taxpayer dollars for higher interest rates and more pressure on county governments to pay for mandated programs the State cannot and will not fund.
Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed no new taxes and wants deep cuts in state services, including the elimination of welfare, which would make California the only state without such a program. Democrats have two plans: one would slam Californians with a multitude of tax increases, the other is massive borrowing to be repaid through a new tax on oil that is pumped from the ground in the state.
There is also a call to transfer $3-4 billion worth of public safety, human services, and health investments to counties to administer. They claim this will not increase the existing tax burden on Californians. This is part of the sleight-of-hand game the state plays with counties; forcing local governments to raise taxes to administer state programs.
At the County, we began the final round of deliberations June 29th on a $4.86 billion budget. I am confident that we will once again pass a balanced budget without cutting law enforcement officers, deferring maintenance, or reducing library hours. Our proposed budget is $145 million less than the current spending plan. We also have 10 percent fewer employees than we did five years ago.
Even so, there is public pressure on the Board of Supervisors to spend our $707 million reserve fund for what some media members and unions say is a “rainy day.” I stand firm in opposing that action. Tapping our reserves would jeopardize the County’s AAA bond rating and no longer make it possible for us to use millions of dollars for projects and programs. Instead this money would go toward paying higher interest rates.
On the federal level, our national politicians talk in terms of trillions instead of billions or millions. These are numbers virtually impossible to imagine. A million seconds equals 12 days. A billion seconds equals 31 years. A trillion seconds equals 31,688 years. America’s national debt is $13 trillion.
With so much uncertainty, I’m reminded of where our nation is on its 224th year of existence. We live in a country founded on democratic principles that include private property rights, free trade, free speech, freedom of religion, and limited government. A brilliant system of checks and balances was put in place in 1788 to ensure that no person or group would have too much power.
Our founding fathers set up three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial, all supposedly with equal power. If those founding fathers had the same lifespan of some Biblical characters and were still alive today, I wonder what they would say about what has happened in the years since. I doubt they would be pleased with what has been done to the framework they created.
The U.S. constitution clearly defines the authority of congress and lists 18 numbered (enumerated) powers. While Congress has the power to tax, borrow money, regulate commerce, raise and support armies, maintain a navy, constitute federal courts, and declare war, I think we have gone far beyond what was originally intended.