Actually, that was the pledge the State of California made back in 1961 when it formed the CSU system, creating an affordable system to allow everyone who had the desire to go to college.
Perhaps unaware of the pledge, the same individual or someone else responded, “Please show me where it’s in the law that the state owes people a college education?”
And then added, “This all comes down to there’s no money left because the Democrats have thrown our money at the public unions for political paybacks. They have sold us out so some of the things Californians took for granted are going to go away. Get used to it, you aren’t owed anything.”
Actually, I very much disagree. Young people are owed a college education, if we wish to have the kind of workforce that can continue to propel us into the field.
But the other part of the statement is telling – it is the example of the lie told often enough, that people believe it as though it were fact.
It is true that under a Democratic legislature and a Democratic Governor under Gray Davis, the Democrats did deliver the only real pay increase that public sector employees had had in the last 30 years. And it is also true that pensions were increased.
What is not true is that that is the reason we are where we are. The numbers just do not add up.
We have cut tens of billions from the state budget over the last three years, plus much of it to education and to assistance to lower income people.
State employees, under the direct control of the Governor and legislature, amount to only $24.4 billion. When you have budget deficits that are in the tens of billions you know it is not simply to due to increased spending to public employees.
That money includes all the money going to UC and CSU, that includes all of the money that goes to incarcerating the state’s 160,000 convicted felons, it includes all of the money for the Highway Patrol, State Parks, and the state agencies.
That is not what created the huge budget deficits.
Wrote LA Times columnist George Skelton last June, “One persistent myth about the perpetually bleeding state budget is that it’s all the fault of public employee unions.”
Wriote Mr. Skelton, the true culprit is more complicated. “California’s budget nightmare stems from a devil’s brew of sins: lack of discipline on both spending and tax-cutting in the past; an outdated and unreliable tax system too susceptible to economic booms and busts; the unhealthy dependence of local governments on Sacramento; and a dysfunctional state budgeting process that requires a gridlock-generating two-thirds majority vote.”
Many people believe that Sacramento could make its ends meet by cutting the salaries of state employees by 10%. In point of fact, last year, most state employees have seen their salaries decline by a lot more than that, on average about 14% through furloughs. However, as Mr. Skelton pointed out, the state remained deep in the red.
The problem is too big to come from just one place and indeed, last June, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that California’s spending was at a forty-year low.
According to the Department of Finance, state spending per $100 of personal income is at its lowest level in nearly 40 years.
The LAO concluded that the recession, rather than spending, is the primary cause of California’s budget deficit.
Where does this leave us? It leaves us in a huge mess that will not be easy to fix without greatly impacting the future.
On Friday, one person asked why Democrats are not screaming about the cuts to social services. The answer is that many are, but what good does it really do? The budget has to be balanced, the state is not making enough revenue. The Republican alternative, which largely does not exist, is an all-cuts budget that would cut more steeply from the programs many would like to preserve.
Until the economy turns around there is not much we can do other than hope that we have not sacrificed too much of our future through cuts to education, colleges and social services.
—David M. Greenwald reporting