With the defeat of the special election propositions yesterday, California is once again teetering on the edge of the cliff it was teetering on just a few months ago. What a waste of time and money for this election. The governor and legislature knew that the six propositions would cure only $6 billion of the state’s deficit, which is projected now to be $21 billion for the next fiscal year, and yet they engaged in a series of threats and dire warnings that just made the electorate mad.

Ironically, the only proposition that passed, 1F, would deny the state’s elected officials pay raises in deficit years. Take that, senate and assembly members: You’ll now have to learn to survive on your meager $116,000 salaries.

Prior to the election, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says that regardless of the outcome, the state must embark on a new budget course that includes a mix of cuts, borrowing and other measures to balance the budget:

  • Obtain up to $6 billion through a Revenue Anticipation Warrant that will help the state avoid deeper cuts to vital state programs and services.
  • Health and Human Services makes up the second-largest part of California’s General Fund, meaning the state must find savings in social, developmental and health care services. Examples include reducing funding for Healthy Families, rolling back the rate increase for Family Planning Services and reducing Medi-Cal payments to private hospitals by 10 percent.
  • When California’s revenues fall, so does the formula for education spending, translating to a $3 billion reduction in education spending. This could mean a school year shortened by five days.
  • Delay all repairs to the State Capitol for one year.

The governor is also proposing to sell seven state-owned properties, including San Quentin State Prison and the Los Angeles Coliseum; making government more efficient through eliminating and consolidating some state functions including streamlining the state’s energy functions, eliminating the Integrated Waste Management Board and seeking a private entity to take over operations of the California Science Center; and, reducing the state workforce by 5,000 General Fund employees to help get the budget in balance.

The governor is also proposing additional cuts, including:

  • Education funding would be cut by an additional $2.3 billion. A $5.4 billion cut would force schools to shorten the school year by 7.5 days, increase class sizes and layoff even more teachers to absorb the reduced funding levels.
  • Outreach funding for UC and CSU would be fully eliminated.
  • Funding for public health and social service programs would be cut event further. These cuts would cut off approximately 225,000 children from the Healthy Families Program and entirely eliminate funding for Substance Abuse Treatment and Crime Prevention and HIV Education and Prevention. 
  • Borrow $2 billion from local governments.
  • Release thousands of undocumented immigrant inmates directly into federal custody.

The state Dept. of Finance has an additional list of cuts. Some of them are fairly obvious, such as eliminating the Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine (to the dismay of natural health practitioners, I’m sure), the Telephone Medical Advice Services Bureau and consolidating the Hearing Aid Dispensers Bureau under the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Bureau (Yeah! Finally!!). In our industry, the department wants to eliminate the Landscape Architects Technical Committee and transfer its licensing duties to the Architects Board.

One thing missing from the election was a proposition that addresses the two-thirds legislative vote to pass budgets instead of a simple majority. I’ve blogged about this before and the state will not get out of this mess until this issue is solved.