CA: The State of Paralysis

As a worker in the University of California, I am most concerned of course with the state of that system. Right now, it appears that in a few weeks the UC Regents will announce yet another fee increase for students in the UC system. This time the increase will be 32%, and that, added to increases earlier in the year, means that fees will have increased 40% in one year.

The UC system is sinking into a fiscal quagmire and one way, along with layoffs and furloughs for staff and faculty, to avoid sinking further is to increase student fees. According to those at the top of the system, there’s nothing that can be done about it. The UC’s problems are really the problems of the state as a whole which is also sinking into a fiscal quagmire.

A recent poll conducted by the LA Times says that 80% of Californians think the state is headed in the wrong direction. In fact, most think that California has “peaked” and its best days are over.

Most voters seem to feel that problem lies with the state government. Year after year, the state appears unable to come up with a budget, and the one they came up with this last time seems mostly constructed of fiscal smoke and mirrors. Right now, for example, the state is taking more money out of my check than it is supposed to take out, though, I am told, I will get that money back in April. With no interest, of course. This little bit of persiflage was put into the budget apparently to make it appear balanced.

At the same time, the voters appear unwilling to do anything that might significantly change the way the government is run. For example, they don’t want to change the state constitution to allow a simple majority (as is the case in most states) to put a budget before the governor. Now it takes 60% and that means that the anti-tax people are able to exercise an inordinate leverage over the budget making process. They don’t want to make changes either to Proposition 13 that has for years placed tight restrictions on the property tax. That, before proposition 13, supplied the state with a relatively stable tax base. Now revenues, based largely on the income tax, fluctuate wildly, making it even more difficult to cobble together a sensible budget. And, of course, the voters don’t want either to get rid of term limits even those these produce a government run by novices, all the more easily influenced by lobbyists.

So maybe the problem lies not with government or the state, but the people of the state who seem to want to have their cake and eat it too, who are willing to rant and rave about our inefficient and wasteful government, but are unwilling to do anything to make that government less wasteful.

There’s something going on here that I just don’t understand; or maybe I do and prefer to live in denial. 

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