The state of California is mired in the worst economic crisis of its 153-year history. It's anywhere from $26 billion to $35 billion in the red. On July 1, it won't be able to pay its bills. All indications are that we won't have a signed budget until October. Wall Street lenders will probably help out with short-term loans, but they might first want to see a plan to cut expenses, raise taxes or both.
Meanwhile, cities, counties and school districts statewide are agonizing over their own budget crises. Under state law they have to dig themselves out of trouble, but their situations depend largely on what the state does to get its own house in order. For example, school districts had to assume the state is going to cut the class-size-reduction program, so they were forced to send pink slips to thousands of teachers. But no one knows for sure the fate of that program because state legislators seem too afraid to make such difficult decisions.
Under these dire circumstances, you'd guess that state legislators are hard at work, poring over spreadsheets, cutting deals with special interests, gearing up to make hard decisions, perhaps meeting with constituents, certainly meeting with each other to brainstorm cost-cutting and revenue-generating options.
If that's what you'd guess, you'd guess wrong.
Many state legislators—some of whom, by the way, played a role in creating the mess in which we now sit—are not working this week. They're on vacation. They took off last Thursday for 10 days of fun in the sun—or whatever. How nice for them.
Yeah, yeah, OK, this is typically the week-spring break-when they take a vacation. But these are not typical times. There is no budget deal anywhere in sight. Some liberal legislators want no cuts to social programs. Some moderate Democrats want a combination of spending cuts and new taxes. Republicans say no tax hikes, no how. A two-thirds vote will be required to pass a budget, meaning a handful of Republicans will have to join the Democrats. They are all very far apart.
As one legislative aide told CityBeat on Monday, “I don't know anyone who sees a way out of this one.”
Well, the solution sure as hell isn't buried on some sandy beach in Hawaii.
Less irritated people might say that a budget deal probably won't be reached until October anyway, so a week and a half is really no big deal.
We say it is a big deal. The lackadaisical ho-hummery coming out of Sacramento these days is appalling. Not only are thousands of teachers in the dark about their employment status, but also city and county officials statewide don't know how they're going to maintain parks, keep libraries open and fix crumbling streets. Social-service providers face deep cuts in funding. Our elected officials owe it to all of them to get their asses in gear.
Don't expect it to happen. The Democrats, who have the run of the state capitol, have made a colossal mess of the place. Their leadership seems non-existent. Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson is utterly useless, and Senate President John Burton, who should be showing us all the way out, appears lost. (For more on all that, see Jill Stewart's “Capitol Punishment” on Page 9.)
We're intrigued by the campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis. We sure wish it could be expanded to include all the political hacks in the state Legislature.
Does anyone else think this whole Mayor Murphy Somersault Spectacular is a total joke?
Mr. Mayor, have some self-respect-please.
In about a month's time, Dick Murphy has made a big hoo-ha about how he's going to run again, somberly changed his mind and then flipped himself over again, ostensibly giving in to the incessant whining of the “business community.”
Who is this “business community” anyway? A few Republicans who dread the notion of “Mayor Alpert” or “Mayor Filner”?
Since incumbents almost never lose (that's the sorriest truth of our vaunted democracy), Murphy will likely win reelection, assuming he doesn't perform another death-defying midair reversal.
But we can't be expected to feel good about another term for a mayor who kinda-sorta wanted the job, then didn't want it all, then had to be ass-kissed into (maybe) wanting again.