State budget: Devil in the details
California has a new budget and it even came in on time.
Cause for cheers? Maybe, but only if you ignore the fine print. As often happens, the devil is in the details. And this is quite a bunch of devils.
Let’s start with the big picture, which includes the assumption that $4 billion in tax revenues not expected as recently as January will come in over the next year. That’s based on two months of higher-than-expected intake by the state during April and May, but expecting the windfall to continue indefinitely is quite an assumption. If good times don’t roll, then a bunch of tentative cuts would supposedly be triggered automatically.
We also now have a tax cut: The increased vehicle license fees and sales and income tax rates Brown wanted to extend have instead died. That should save the average family anywhere from $268 to $1,000 per year, which is cause for rejoicing by car dealers, who now can knock $200 off the net price of a $20,000 vehicle.
Then there’s what we won’t have, starting with a special election to decide whether those 2009 tax boosts should be extended. Had they been – which may still happen via ballot initiative in November 2012 – many provisional cuts that may be triggered in January would be avoided.
We also won’t have physical education classes for more than one-third of all teenagers enrolled in California public schools.
We won’t have the use of dozens of state parks – maybe as many as 70 – that will be shuttered for lack of maintenance funds.
We won’t have much adult education. With about one-fourth of all California adults lacking basic English literacy skills, extreme cuts in adult education will relegate thousands of citizens to perpetual unemployment or menial work.
We also will have much less electronic monitoring of parolees with GPS tracking devices. Budget cuts forced down the number of monitored paroled gang members from 950 earlier this year to 400 as of July 1.
Plus, anti-gang and anti-drug trafficking efforts have been cut by $71 million. This, complained Attorney General Kamala Harris, “will cripple our … operations … (eliminating) many, if not all, of the (50) anti-gang task forces …”
So we will have more gang crime and more drug dealing in our streets.
The poorest among us will also have less. With welfare spending sliced by $1 billion, monthly aid to needy families of three fell from $694 to $638 per month. The $56 cut means less food and clothing, soap, shampoo – less of everything for people who already have next to nothing.
This comes after cuts in previous years had already closed many mental health clinics and slashed the Healthy Families initiative that once gave health care to about 1 million children.
Some college and university students will also have a harder time paying tuition and fees, after already paying large increases for fewer course offerings.
Altogether, the new budget makes California a far meaner place than before, not exactly what Gov. Brown promised while campaigning.