Governor Schwarzenegger has unveiled his budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year, and it is bleak, to say the least.
I am disappointed that the Governor’s plan is to issue deep across-the-board cuts and lock the state into a lower level of services.
The fundamental question we must ask ourselves is: What kind of state do we want? Do we want to make mediocrity our baseline? Do we want our public schools to remain 43rd in the nation? Do we want take away vital assistance from the poor, elderly and disabled? That’s the vision this Governor is offering.
Here is some of what is in the Governor’s budget proposal:
– Quality of Life: Almost one fifth of our state parks face closures under this proposal. California is known and admired for its beautiful and diverse wilderness and coastline, and millions of Californians enjoy them each year. Unfortunately, the closure of 43 parks and beaches robs us of these assets.
– Education: Nearly all California programs that take money from the General Fund face permanent, 10-percent cuts across the board, with very little prioritizing. Despite our public schools’ low rankings, the governor is asking the Legislature to reduce K-12 education funding below the constitutionally required minimum. Our schools are already short on funding and resources. These cuts will only make matters worse.
– Higher Education: Like other areas, UC and CSU schools must cut 10 percent. This could prompt more student fee increases and further curtail access to higher education for many deserving Californians.
– MediCal: State-funded dental visits for the poor would be eliminated.
– SSI/SSP: Cost-of-living increases would be cut for the elderly and disabled who rely on state assistance.
By shrinking almost all funding to public services and then locking them in, the governor is selling us on the excellence of mediocrity. As Californians, we owe it to ourselves, and our children, to do better.
We have to think clearly about how we can shape the state consistent with the money we have. And then, we’re going to have to decide what else is necessary to have the state that we want. It’s not that complicated.
This is just the beginning of the budget process. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and the Governor to make sensible budget decisions.