President Obama’s latest speech on the economy and the White House’s recent job summit highlight the fragility of the economy. Meanwhile, in California crippling budget cuts and a structural budget deficit have sapped the ability of the state to advance the general welfare of its citizens.

Indeed, California is forecast to lag the rest of the nation in economic recovery. That is why Sacramento must take seriously a recent report by the Los Angeles Times that found evidence of billions of dollars of waste associated with the state’s use of private contractors.

Outsourcing public services and resources to private contractors who are providing substandard services at a higher cost makes no sense, especially when this practice costs California taxpayers $35 billion a year.

Then there are those wasteful tax breaks and tax credit programs like the enterprise zone program that have been shown not to work.

These and other tax giveaways and loopholes enlarge the state’s budget deficit, while allowing multinational corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.

There are plenty of progressive ways to solve this budget crisis.  It’s just that our elected officials choose not to pursue those methods.

Currently, two-thirds of the state budget is devoted to K-12, higher education, and health care.

Because debt servicing now accounts for 9% of the budget with prison spending eating up the rest, it’s no wonder that there’s hardly money left for popular and essential public service programs at current revenue levels.

As to whether we should raise taxes, we must remember that California is perpetually in the red precisely because the state has been unable to raise taxes since the passage of Prop 13, and this has prompted the state to resort to borrowing to fund state programs.

AFSCME has identified $44 billion worth of recurring revenues that can be used to balance the 2010-2011 budget and all budgets annually thereafter. These long-term solutions would obviate further cuts to the public service programs that polls show a majority of California voters support, putting California on sound financial footing by eliminating the state’s structural budget deficit.

You can go to to download the budget plan.

Willie L. Pelote Sr. is an Assistant Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO. AFSCME’s 1.6 million members provide the vital services that make America happen. With members in hundreds of different occupations — from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers — AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.