Sunday, July 26, 2009

California's Inept Deal with the Devil

The LA Times has a revealing story on how the California budget was passed in the state legislature:

" The power of Sacramento lobbyists was only one of several factors threatening to bring the Legislature to a halt. Steinberg turned aside the proposal from Intuit's representatives. But lobbyists for major interest groups were present throughout the night, seeking to influence the process. With hundreds of pages of legislative language passed with little time available for review, few knew what the fine print might contain.

Early proclamations that the cash crisis had forced lawmakers to transcend pettiness and partisanship devolved into hallway deal-making. Over and over, legislators with designs on higher office balked at measures that could be used in campaigns against them. Legislative leaders, inexperienced in their jobs, repeatedly found they could not deliver the votes of their caucuses.

Term limits have made this batch of lawmakers among the most inexperienced in decades, and many legislators, their attention focused on their next elected office, spent the night watching the moves of real or prospective opponents in upcoming primaries."

All this sordidness might be excused if they had passed a sane budget, with sane cuts and sane revenue increases. But even though they saved posh Santa Barbara beaches from oil rigs and maybe let localities fill some potholes this year, the budget forced on this hapless legislature by the cunning and shameless macho image-making of the Terminator will cost the poor, the sick, the old and the young in suffering as well as dollars, as well as stop any sort of economic recovery in the state for the forseeable future.

For this temporary respite (a few weeks vacation before they have to work on the next budget in October) they will reap the whirlwind: multiple lawsuits, costly court judgments and possible if not likely strikes by various public employees.

First stop: a spike in California's unemployment and a further decline in consumer spending, as the effect of state layoffs and income cuts ripple out. Count on it.

Coming soon: two crippled state university systems, damaging California and the United States' ability to compete economically, as well as consigning more students to dead end futures.

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