Wednesday, May 20, 2009

California's Fiscal Wildfire

California has four seasons - earthquakes, mudslides, droughts and wildfires and, right now, the state is facing a fiscal wildfire - a $21-billion deficit that state voters have rejected.

That leaves governor Schwarzenegger and his legislature to slash spending and the obvious targets are policing and education. Thousands of cops and teachers will be getting pink slips which, in reality, is only good news for criminals and truants.

California is beginning to become a bit like Waziristan - ungovernable. State budgets need a two-thirds vote to pass the legislature which is a formula for gridlock rather than compromise. If the legislature won't pass the budget, the governor's last resort is to call a 'special election' which is basically an invitation to voters to stop by and indicate if they want an increase in their tax bills. The 'nays' have a lot more incentive to show up at the polls. Only 19% turned out for yesterday's vote.

Faced with a deadlocked legislature, Arnie is going to have to start cutting. 5,000 state employees are going for starters. Funding to municipalities will be slashed meaning fewer firefighters and police officers. And tens of thousands of California teachers will likely be thrown out of work.

That's the sort of mischief that ten percent of the electorate can cause a government when direct democracy translates into mob rule under a dysfunctional legislature hatched by a deeply flawed constitution.

I wonder how long it will be before all the 'law and order' types who couldn't be bothered to vote yesterday start screaming about runaway crime on the streets?

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