Public Employee Unions Are Sinking California
Months after closing its last budget gap, the Golden State is $20 billion in the red
By Steven Greenhut
An old friend of mine has a saying, “Even the worm learns.” Prod one several hundred times, he says, and it will learn to avoid the prodder. As California enters its annual budget drama, I can’t help but wonder if the wisdom of the elected politicians here in the state capital equals that of the earthworm.
The state is in a precarious position, with a 12.3% unemployment rate (more than two points higher than the national average) and a budget $20 billion in the red (only months after the last budget fix closed a large deficit). Productive Californians are leaving for states with less-punishing regulatory and tax regimes. Yet so far there isn’t a broad consensus to do much about those who have prodded the state into its current position: public employee unions that drive costs up and fight to block spending cuts.
Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a budget that calls for a $6.9 billion handout from Washington (unlikely to be forthcoming) and vows to protect current education funding, 40% of the state’s budget. He does want to eliminate the Calworks welfare-to-work program and enact a 5% pay cut for state employees. These are reasonable ideas, but also politically unlikely.
As the Sacramento Bee’s veteran columnist Dan Walters recently put it, the governor’s budget is “disconnected from economic and political reality.” Mr. Walters suspects what will happen next: “Most likely, [the governor] and lawmakers will, to use his own phrase, ‘kick the can down the road’ with some more accounting tricks and other gimmicks, and dump the mess on whoever is ill-fated to become governor a year hence.”
You can read the rest of Steve’s column here.
It looks like Steve has really found a great niche up in Sacramento — keep up the good work!
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