Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Welcome To California... The Tin Foil State!

From For Ellipsis

"I love California, I practically grew up in Phoenix."

-Dan Quayle

OK, to say I HATE the governor would be a strong statement. I don't actually hate Governor Schwarzenegger, I don't even regret my voting for him, I made a decision at the time, based on information that lead me to believe that he was the right man to lead California. But if I could I take the vote back now, I would have to say, YES! California is a blue state, and yet we Californians have been known to vote with our conscience, as opposed to sticking to straight party lines. Speaking for myself, when I vote, I vote who I think is best for the job. I am willing to listen to what parties, other then democrats, have to say. I try to be a fair minded person, but right now I am rethinking my way of doing things. I believe when Schwarzenegger first ran for office, he had the best interests of the state in mind, now, however, he seems to have caved to the wishes of his party, losing his soul in the process.

If you were following my blog last autumn, you already know about the difficulties all Californians went through regarding the California budget stalemate. It was an especially difficult time, in that my cat Elvis was going through a really difficult time with Cancer, and we were doing our best to give his as comfortable time as possible, as we prepared to say goodbye to him. Elvis was a once in a lifetime pet... the one you never get over. He deserved to have his chemotherapy, so he could enjoy his last days, by walking in his yard, and playing through the fence with the dog next door, and playing with his stuffed animals. I wanted to give him his last 6 months, rather then have him put to sleep earlier then we needed to. Alan and I knew, going into the chemotherapy treatments, that the chemo wouldn't save his life, but it would make his last days a lot more tolerable. But they didn't come cheap.

Dr. B. was wonderful. He worked with us, and with his compassion and understanding, we had our last 6 months together, but it was a financial struggle, and it was made much worse by the goings on in Sacramento. Their threats and in ability to come to a budget put a strain on everything. It crossed my mind, that there was a good chance that I would be living out of my car if things got any worse. We even went so far as to begin packing, in case we needed to move. It didn't come to that, but there was a real possibility. Then in later autumn, the budget was finally signed, Elvis passed away from his cancer, and along came the new babies. They brought some life back into my little corner of the world, and taking care of them, doesn't cost nearly what it did with Elvis, because of all of his special needs. But like I said... he is the one you don't get over.

Well, fast forward to this year, and Alan and I are once again, looking at making some difficult decisions. In February, Schwarzenegger furloughed state workers. Because of the job Alan does, he doesn't have to take the days off, instead they reduced his pay to reflect two days off. A couple weeks ago, the governor added an additional day cut, and is now considering adding a another 5% cut across the board in pay, which, if implemented, would equal a 20% cut in pay. Alan is bringing home, somewhere in the neighborhood of $750... a month... less then he did a year ago at this time. We are barely getting by. We have given up a lot, and may have to give up even more, including one of our cars. But as I said back in the autumn, as bad as we have it, it would be so much worse if we had children to feed and send to school. Alan and I will have to give things up, but we will survive, even if we do end up living out of our cars. But what about those with children and elderly to take care of... what will they do?

The California education system has been beaten down. Embarrassingly, IOU's have been put into place, to pay vendors. Parks are being closed. California's unemployment is still on the rise, we are now at 11.5 percent. Social programs are on the chopping block. And every single day that the budget is not signed, we go into the hole for another $25 million dollars. And there is no end in sight, but more devastation is. Now Schwarzenegger wants to suspend Prop 98, which guaranteed a minimum amount of money went to education. With that suspension, would come furloughs for those in the California State University system. California isn't the state it once was. With the IOU's came the downgrade of the states credit rating to BBB or basically, two steps above junk status.

Sigh. The Golden State really isn't the "Golden State" anymore. We are considered the 8th largest economy in the world, yet we are virtually bankrupt. The answer to all our problems, according to Schwarzenegger, and republican legislators, is to cut, cut, cut, cut spending. NO NEW TAXES. Honestly, what good does it do to cut the budget to the point that we give up on our education system, we close parks, and we take food out of peoples mouths, all so we can hear NO NEW TAXES. It isn't realistic to think that cutting programs alone will fix anything. If you live in California, and you want to enjoy the basics of doing so, then you have to pay your share. Period. Yes, taxes are high now, but what are you getting for them, if programs, and salaries, continue to be cut? What should the trade off be?

Stupid children? Elderly who have to dumpster dive in order to eat? Wastelands instead of park lands? Folks having to stay home from work a couple days a month, because they can't afford the gas to go to work. The next time you are standing in line at the DMV and it is taking a long, long time, consider why this might be. California's DMV will now be closed 3 Fridays out of every month, due to Schwarzenegger's "Furlough Friday" program. So, the next time you are inconvenienced by this, consider what the alternative might have meant. Without tax increases, we will be facing a meltdown of what made California a once great state. Taxes are a necessary evil, without that being part of the compromise, California can forget the name "Golden State" because soon it will then be the "Tin Foil" state.

NOTE: I know it's not just my state facing troubling times, look at what the Governor of the state of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, wants to do...

Boston Zoo May Have To Close (AOL News)
(Animals may have to be euthanized)

Additional Reading...

California Credit Rating Cut Close to Junk IOUs (Bloomberg.com)

Schwarzenegger's Call To Suspend Prop. 98 Jolts Capitol (Sacramento Bee)

California Budget Gap Grows $25 Million A Day (Sacramento Bee)

California State University Furloughs To Start in August (KGO 7)

Schwarzenegger Plans 20% Pay Cuts (Sacramento Bee)

Opinions, opinions.

Feel free to share what you think. What's it like in the state where you live? Do you think the Obama stimulus plan will help your state? What do you think about the governors who want to turn down stimulus money? Do you agree that taxes are a necessary evil? What is your states employment outlook? Have you seen any improvements since the stimulus package was put into place? Do you approve of a second stimulus package?



Nature's Sound said...

I'm with ya gal. I've been unemployed for 9 months and see no end in sight. (and I don't live in California, no I live in the Vice-President's home state) You could say, I'm scared!!

Florinda said...

I have had a post like this on my mind ever since the fiscal year started, but you've already said a lot of what's been on my mind, fellow Californian. High unemployment already means that there's less tax money coming in, and raising taxes puts a bigger burden on those who CAN pay them - but it's necessary. And tough times increase the need for public and social services, so cutting them makes things worse. As for education cuts, that's just shooting the future in the foot.

I think this has to be addressed from both sides - increasing revenues (including taxes, since adding more debt isn't smart and our state credit is shot anyway) AND reducing expenses. Pay cuts for everyone in state government until they get this fixed? Funny how no one wants to consider that...

Great post, Carly!

Charley said...

No offense to your state and its people, but the *real* problem is your contorted, twisted, and unconstitutional referendum system. The public is addicted to mobocracy and has far too much authority to create law.

To assume that the common man is smart enough to rule himself is folly - that's why we aren't a democracy - we're a republic! I think some americans forget that fact and believe they should have more authority and influence than is safe.

That's not to say that California has had successes with its referendum system, because it has at times, but at the same time it has hamstrung the legislature, and in many ways, the governor's ability to influence policy.

Book Dragon said...

what would happen to California if ALL state/government employees were to take the same day off? Also, any project that they were overseeing would be stopped for the day. What if they did it again? Just leave a skeleton crew at the police & fire stations....

MyMaracas said...

Hi Carly. Just checking in on ya. I'm sorry you're still having so much trouble out there in California. Things aren't so great here in Indiana, either. There was a property tax cut this year, to much fanfare, but it meant everything from police and fire to libraries to parks were facing reductions or outright closing. So now we have a big boost in local income tax to make up the difference. Bottom line? We're paying more now than we would have before the property tax cut. They should have left well enough alone.

natalie said...

Dear Carly,
Oh Dear..I am really so sorry that the state is making people cut back their hours! At this terrible time!
I am really upset that this is happening to you and many and as you said , in the great state of California!
Carly you will be even more in my thoughts and prayers you and Alan. thank you for a very meaning ful entry.