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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let's Make the Budget Work for California

When I first came to California in January 1973, the community colleges were free, as was day use of state parks, and many communities had multiple library branches. Now there's a plan to have entry fees at the state parks (many have already been temporarily closed); California cities are shutting down library branches; and there's no more free education at community colleges. That's just the tip of the iceberg with program cuts taking place in every arena from rehab programs in the prisons to sidewalk repairs. Why has the state gone backwards?

Very few of us have paid much attention to the state economy, but I don't think that's a viable option anymore. Something has gone really wrong and there's not enough political will in the legislature to change anything. It's high time for us citizens to learn what has caused the mess and how to turn it around.

I listened to a radio show that said we now depend on 140,000 of the richest Californians for 25% of our tax revenues. Is the problem that we stopped taxing the middle class to the levels we used to? Or is the problem that the gap between rich and poor has grown so much that we don't tax those richest folks nearly enough? Did corporations pay much more in taxes back in '73? I know that Prop 13, passed in '78, keeps property taxes low. Is that where the money used to come from? Or is there some truth to the Republican chorus that we added too many state workers and benefits?

It's time for regular citizens to collect data and start to understand the reasons for this demise. If you have some answers, then help educate me. Let's put California back on track.

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