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Thursday, August 28, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 8/3/2004

Crazy in California

ARNOLD Schwarzenegger's bold talk of ending California's "crazy deficit spending" after he became governor has turned out to be just that - all talk.

The budget patched together by the former Hollywood action hero, and state lawmakers he ridiculed as "girlie men" when they balked at his plans, leaves the Golden State still solidly in the red and possibly worse off fiscally than before Mr. Schwarzenegger assumed the governorship last year.

If it's true that trends start in California, taxpayers in the other 49 states can only hope that the idea of deficit spending doesn't take hold.

Some of the temporary fixes in the new $105.3 billion budget are truly crazy themselves, although the word doesn't quite convey the sheer magnitude of fiscal irresponsibility that is being perpetrated in Sacramento.

For example: The state will borrow, by selling bonds, just short of $1 billion, to pay public employee pensions over the next year. In addition, another $2 billion in bonds will be sold to help erase a $15 billion deficit, and the state will siphon $1.1 billion from gasoline tax revenue that's supposed to be used for fixing roads.

Some spending has been curtailed. Cities and counties will be shortchanged to the tune of $2.6 billion over the next two years, and funding for schools and community colleges has been cut - although the Republican governor and lawmakers promise the cuts will be made up soon. How this will happen, they don't say.

But, hey, dude, there are no tax increases in this budget, and no way to pay the millions of dollars in interest charges that will come later.

There are, however, budget-balancing gimmicks the likes of which are far too fantastic for even a Hollywood epic. Consider Mr. Schwarzenegger's plan to tap into $450 million in punitive damages which haven't been, and may never be, awarded in state courts.

Now that's nutty, even by Haight-Ashbury, freeze-dried-in-the-'60s, live-for-today, standards.

And did we mention that the budget will still be some $4 billion short, all the fiscal smoke and mirrors notwithstanding? What happens next year?

Like the guy from the oil filter commercial said, "You can pay me now, or pay me later." With Arnold Schwarzenegger at the helm, Californians will be paying - and throwing good money after bad - for many years to come.



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