Following a record setting 85-day stalemate over the state budget, the financial situation for California looks nearly as downtrodden as it did two weeks ago when state officials were seemingly still in a deadlock deciding the budget. Because the budget was planned too optimistically and state revenue has been unable to meet original estimates, the deficit, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been aiming to close, looks like it will get a lot worse before it gets better.
In fact, Schwarzenegger has been working with his brain trust to analyze the budget deficit through an emergency meeting in which they may or may not plan to decide to ask for emergency funds from the federal government. However, rather than working with his team, planning, waiting and planning to wait, Schwarzenegger, along with friends and enemies alike, needs to appreciate the timeliness of the situation, suck up his pride and reach for those emergency funds.
It could be argued that the abundance of bureaucratic red tape and the stalemate is just politics as usual. However, with the economic crisis confronting Californians on both a state and national level, it is tough to argue that California’s budget is anything but at its breaking point.
According to data collected from “The Economist,” state revenue in the form of sales tax receipts and corporate taxes have been 9 and 16 percent lower than state estimates. Furthermore, income-tax receipts, which make up the majority of state revenue, have only done marginally better.
Rather than arguing over how to allocate money, state officials should first consider whether or not they have the money at all, which can only positively be done through borrowing money from the federal government. This must be done as soon as possible for three primary reasons. First, as long as doubt drifts over the budget at the highest level, this will trickle down in budget matters concerning all levels of employment. Second, as the world’s eighth largest economy, California is positioned to be a trendsetter among the states, as far as balancing budgets is concerned. Thus, the longer the state is in the red, the longer the smaller economies that surround it will follow. Third, the national economy is in ruin and any financial assistance the federal government can offer will lessen over time.
According to one report that appeared in the Contra Costa Times, the state budget crisis affects not only politicians, but unions as well. An example cited in the report showed that teaching unions could not negotiate with school distracts because a three-year revenue projection is required to come to an agreement. Because the state budget is not concrete, these projection numbers have no solid basis, which in turn casts doubt on agreements being reached between teacher unions and school districts.
While California’s trendsetting status is impressive for a state that is currently in turmoil, it is also a responsibility. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the basic moneymaking system is the same in California as it is in other states, with one exception. It is on steroids. Through such factors as exporting businesses, manufacturing capabilities and professional services, California’s economy accounts for roughly 15 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. So when waves are made on California’s financial coast, they resonate throughout the other 49 states.
Finally, while the effects of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the bailout plan) have yet to completely settle, it is tough to argue that the national economy is anything but worrisome. As long as this turmoil exists, both federal and private sources offering funds will have no choice but to become more conservative in their lending habits. Thus, if California is in need of emergency funds, it is best to aim for them while this safety net is outstretched rather than tucked away.
Daniel Johnson is a fourth-year literary journalism and film and media studies double-major. He can be reached at email@example.com.