Thursday, July 08, 2004

Well, Since You Ask

The natives are restless for news on the annual budget impasse (an event that ranks somewhere below Christmas but above Arbor Day on the list of "yearly events Californians eagerly await).

So, here's my take - or 10 of them:

1.) Average Californians (read: non-blogging-former-staffer-nerds) won't really get the whole story. Why? Because the quality of state capital reporting sucks. Sure, some papers/outlets have pumped up (get it?) their Capitol bureaus with the shiny new "populist" governor - but it doesn't mean they go much deeper than comparing statements in press release A with those in press release B. Sadly, for you to really know, you should get a job there. And then get a therapist to talk you off the ledge.

2.) Arnold is precariously close to The Edge. Those fab, fun headlines about how he was adding up wins like so much B.O. take? No so much there these days as the Capitol's leading pundits begin to turn out our friend, Saviour and Davis Ouster Schwarzenegger. Want proof - go poke around the The Sacramento Bee or Rough&Tumble for the news. Seems people are onto him, saying the governor hasn't done what he was elected to do, or - worse - that Schwarzenegger's first budget is beginning to resemble Davis debacle. Egads! This isn't what we wanted is it?

3.) The problems people are having with the new gov, as with the old gov, are pretty similar, eh? Fundamentally the problem is this: we don't have enough money. Let's paint a little explanatory picture. Say a blogger makes $1000 every month. She has to pay $800 in rent, $100 for food, and $4 billion in repayments to arrogant, selfish California motorists. Can she make her budget work by July 1? Probably not. See, it's called mathematics, people. Dems won't cut programs - or technically, they will, they just won't close the UCs, CSUs, Community Colleges, and every prison - which is what it would've taken for Davis to have gotten us about halfway out of the hole - and Reeps won't raise taxes. So, you can see, we have a bit of a problem.

4.) Term limits. No one knows what they are doing anymore. You know who runs the state? Staff and the executive branch. Do you have a say in who the executive branch's administrative people are? Not really. Because you can't vote for them - and because you didn't pay enough attention in high school civics when they explained why branch 1 was necessary and important.

5.) Redistricting. I've commented on this before. Read the archives. In sum: we'd solve many, many problems if we redid how we redraw. What we have now are districts so wildly uncompetitive we elect nuts from both (yes, both) parties who couldn't spell compromise most of the time, let alone step into the cross-aisle shoes of their fellow members and understand how to work with them to do what's best for the state. This comes out most painfully and clearly around budget time - because when it comes down to it - money is at the heart of everything, everyone wants it, and there's not enough for everyone to have it. Dems - some Reeps have good ideas both on programming and fiscal policy (and you should explore private industry, partnerships, etc more often for solutions to problems that barely-funded government programs just keep screwing up). Reeps - some Dems have good ideas both on programming and fiscal policy (and you should explore upping the revenue stream in this state because you have programs you like too - don't lie, yes you do - and we should all care more about what happens to people when we cut the programs that really count).

6.) The Senate. If true to form, they will soon tire of this foolishness, just pass some rag, and recess because They Are Senators. Their Carpet is Red. Therefore, They Deserve A Vacation. Now. They'll punt their version to the Assembly, and just let 'em deal with it. Your time is coming, dear Senate. Soon, you'll be leadershipless in a cold, dark world, just like the Assembly which you disdain so openly. You are no different, serve no different purpose, there are just fewer of you, meaning you each should get more blame - lucky you. The Senate will do all of this because a) they can and b) it's so much more fun watching the Assemblymembers take all the bad ink for the slow process. 'Course, perhaps they should consider that most Californians don't know we have 2 houses and so when faced with a ballot question that says "should those good for nothing, lazy, inactive, fiscally irresponsible legislators only be allowed to behave that way part-time," they won't think "gee, but the Senate seemed to get work done. They'll punch yes and feel fine about it.

7.) Three points later and we still don't have enough money.

8.) Basically, it's all a posturing game. You, voters, readers, politicos, know that they won't get it done for another little bit. They know they don't have to, so we'll wait. The lack-of-money thing won't change, so who the hell cares how long it takes for us to not fund things? It'll hurt government contractors first - and we all hate them right? (no, they aren't legitimate business people contributing to the economy. No they don't have a right to work).

9.) Nunez, Burton, and Schwarzenegger don't have enough "look how hard we're working" ink yet. I love my Leg guys - but this is Burton's swan budget, Nunez and Schwarzenegger's first budget, and if you don't think personality figures into this then read more news.

10.) At the end of the day, Schwarzenegger is learning first hand that this budget stuff is messy, nearly impossible, and deeply unsatisfied. He'll stick it to local government - because they always get screwed; he'll "compromise" and make deals with all kind of people he disparaged a few months ago. He's still got some honeymood time left with the press, and the public still seems to like its little. Austrian. different. governor - but that'll end eventually.

So - allllll these words later - did I give you anything good, LJ? Probably not. Because there's nothing new this year except the faces at the table. And because I'm not in the building anymore to get the really good stuff. At this time of year, the Legislature is thoroughly engrossed in both budgeting and in wondering how they look at any given moment to the outside world.

Bottom line: few are watching. And won't, until the press, mad that no ones paying attention, presents the incomplete story.

My insiders tell me they hear "end of the month."

Though, to be fair, I never asked which.

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