Budget Daydreams

BUDGET DAYDREAMS….A couple of weeks ago I said I’d vote for anyone for governor who could produce a reasonably plausible budget plan for California. Cruz Bustamante and Peter Ueberroth stepped up to the plate yesterday.

The results are not pretty. To begin with, both addressed only the $8 billion shortfall that’s left over from the plan that finally got passed last month. That’s like playing tennis without a net, but even at that neither one came up with a plan that even passes the laugh test.

In addition to a few reasonable proposals, Bustamante’s plan includes a change to Prop 13, which requires a constitutional amendment that he knows perfectly well would never pass (he wants to treat corporate property differently than residential property, which is a good idea, but it still wouldn’t pass). He wants to raise cigarette taxes by $1.50 a pack. And he wants to “close loopholes.”

In the savings category, we have “unspecified” spending cuts and a “crackdown” on Medi-Cal fraud. Yawn. And there’s more: after all this fine work closing the budget gap, he would then raise spending by about $4 billion.

Ueberroth’s plan, believe it or not, is even worse. In his dreamworld, we would collect an extra $5 billion via a “tax amnesty,” we would sell some unspecified state assets (“An auction would be a whole lot of fun”), we would renegotiate state employee contracts (he thinks the unions would happily go along), and we would make unspecified spending cuts. He wants to crack down on Medi-Cal fraud too, although he thinks he can save three times as much as Bustamante can in this area. Amount of reality in this plan: almost none. Amount of pie in the sky: lots.

This is just pathetic, and is further evidence of the dreamland that California is living in. It’s simply impossible for a politician to suggest a combination of tax hikes and serious spending cuts that has any chance of winning approval.

And you want to hear what’s even more pathetic? The best and most realistic budget plan I’ve heard so far was Gray Davis’ very first budget proposal back in December of last year. And he’s getting recalled.

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