By Joe Guzzardi
May 24, 2012
Last week, California’s already staggering $9 billion budget deficit ballooned to $16 billion. Governor Jerry Brown would like you to believe that overnight California’s economic crisis deepened by $7 billion.
Either Sacramento’s bureaucrats can’t add or Brown has been playing loose with facts since he was elected eighteen months ago. My money is on the latter.
This year, California’s tax collections have run $3.5 billion below what Brown calculated a mere four months ago. Spending has grown $2 billion above projections. The federal government and court ruling blocked some in-home health care savings Brown anticipated while the California Legislature balked at other cuts.
California, with an economy bigger than Russia’s, has lost millions of jobs since the 2007 recession. The vanished jobs cost California, the most populated U.S. state, 24 percent of its revenue. As a result, the new $16 billion deficit puts additional pressure on Brown to increase California’s income and sales taxes that are already higher than any other state.
The news is even worse than Brown would have you believe. California’s Legislative Analysts’ Office, a credible, nonpartisan source, insists that $16 billion is too low. According to LAO spokesman Mac Taylor, monies Brown plans to collect from now defunct local redevelopment agencies don’t exist.
Taylor pegs the state deficit at $17 billion.
Brown’s patchwork solutions are familiar to Californians who have traveled down this road countless times. Brown wants spending cuts in health and welfare programs as well as a state worker furlough. If Brown has his way, state employees would work four-9.5 hour shifts and take a pay cut.
In other words, Brown’s targets are the sickly, the needy and middle class Californians scratching out a living in the country’s third most expensive to live in state.
Of course, there would be massive education cuts—unless voters approve Brown’s tax plan which would keep the wolves from the door, at least for the time being. Some analysts, and I’m one of them, think that Brown’s tax initiative is extortion. Pass it or the children will suffer. Since California already has many of the nation’s least well educated students, it’s hard to imagine how little they’ll know if funding is cut.
As for colleges, the choices are equally grim. Less money from the state means probable tuition increases—again!
Speaking of college, I’m reminded that no matter how bleak California’s economy becomes eliminating illegal immigrants’ entitlements never surfaces in Sacramento as a cost cutting option.
The California Dream Act, which starts in 2013, will allow aliens to pay low instate tuition rates and qualify for Cal Grants. The Dream Act is one of Brown’s pet projects. The taxpayer cost is will be at least $65 million, about four times Brown’s original figure. California, with Brown’s blessing, has also blocked mandatory E-Verify which would ensure that new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States. The obvious beneficiaries are illegal aliens.
According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, illegal immigration costs California more than $22 billion annually—six billion more that the state’s deficit! While Brown is not directly responsible for federal immigration policy, nothing in his job description prevents him from taking a vigorous anti-immigration stance. Instead, Brown incentivizes more illegal immigration.
The first step toward recovery is honesty from government. Brown’s mostly successful effort to keep the public in the dark about what’s really going on—especially about illegal immigration’s costs—is self defeating.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. His columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]