Budget Balanced on a Broken Wing and Unanswered Prayer

"There you go again."

That's the famous comeback Ronald Reagan delivered with a disarming twinkle to Jimmy Carter in their 1980 presidential debates every time the former peanut farmer said something the former actor thought was off the mark.

It became the signature phrase of the campaign.

"There you go again" applies to the new state budget as well, except there's no twinkle this time.

Rather, feelings of contempt, disappointment, and maybe a lot of sketchy math might be more appropriate.

The legislature and Democratic Governor Jerry Brown have added a huge dent to that budget can they keep kicking down the road.

The new budget is based on multiple assumptions, the largest being that the state will collect an extra $4 billion in revenues over the next six months to complement the $6.6 billion extra revenue that has come in so far this year.

It also assumes $300 million for internet taxation and nearly $2 billion from ending redevelopment agencies.

Add up all these assumptions and pretty soon you're talking big money.

If the money doesn't come in, Katie bar the door.

Schools will be shut down for 7 more days (the school year has already been reduced to one of the shortest in the nation), higher education will suffer the second of a two pronged massive funding reduction, and programs for the sick, disabled and poor will be slashed twice as much as they have already been cut this year.

There's a lot riding on hope in a state with an economy that has not lived up to expectations.

Democrats are saying they've done the best they can. Maybe they did, given Republican intransigence on new taxes.

But in a state that begins each year with a $20 billion structural deficit, they are likely to raise a paltry $350 million in real new revenues--$300 million by adding $12 to motor vehicle registration fees and $50 million in homeowner fire district fees.

The other new revenues depend on hope, much of which will be dashed after a series of law suits that do away with the illusory added revenues.

Republicans look especially bad. Two weeks ago when the legislature passed the first budget, Republicans screamed that the

Cuts were unneccessary because more revenues were likely to come in, allowing for a more robust budget.

Yesterday, they did an about face, with Republican Senator and Budget Committee Vice Chair Bob Huff protesting that the $4 billion extra revenue assumption was depending upon "phantom money."

How can you have it both ways? Guess they're counting on the public having a short memory.

The public also looks bad for not being more engaged in the process.

The state is in a fiscal crisis. The budget in its present form will not end it, but protract it. Public education will falter, students will be turned away from public colleges and universities, poor children's health programs will all but disappear, and local governments will go begging for the basics including law enforcement and fire protection.

Along the way, we've sort of become immune to it all. We've heard this before and we're still standing, sort of.

There you go again...

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