The Disaster Known as the California State Budget
On May 19th, Californians pretty much rejected all the budget ideas coming from our governor and the capital city of Sacramento. I'm sure he's exasperated as we all are. The only proposition that passed was one to make sure no bonuses were distributed to lawmakers during budget crisises. Go figure. Arnold has indicated he's open to ideas. As a teacher and parent in a rural community I've taken the opportunity to look around my county in the last few days since the election. Here's some ideas for Arnold from me. What are your ideas to help solve California's crisis?
I live in that beautiful golden state and three hours from the capital of Sacramento---otherwise known as the place where nothing can quite get done. Here in California we get an onslaught of mail and TV ads telling us how detrimental any cut would be to our state budget and how the state government and Schwartzenegger are out to get us. You know what? Baloney. So Arnold, if you read Wisebread here are some of my suggestions for budget trimming in California based on my own experiences with some of these programs and institutions.
1) Don’t feel guilty about cutting First Five. Don’t get me wrong it’s a lovely idea to employ various people around the state to ‘work with’ parents to teach them to read to their kids and send them to preschool. But in my county? First Five had a better office than I have in a brand new building with two staffers! They’d come around to our tiny programs that served a couple to five kids tops at a time. Most of the kids that wind up using these programs have parents that care in the first place. The objective should be to help kids whose parents are not giving them opportunities. But it’s impossible to reach those kids because the parents impede the process. So essentially First Five, while well meaning preaches to the choir. Cut it. Go ahead.
2) After school programs. In urban areas it makes sense to have these. But our tiny counties pretty much waste this money. Students sign in that they were there and then leave. My business partners two kids are in the local program in our town. That’s what they do. I checked it out across the county and that’s pretty much what happens. Students sign in, get a snack, leave. Divert the money to large urban areas that need it. Forget about us rural areas. Our kids are outside playing anyway.
3) Take away the tax credit for having kids if you have more than two kids (zero population growth).
4) I live in a county that has 20% unemployment and multigenerational welfare recipients. I know most of this is federal , but do what you can.
5) Student loans and grants. Come down hard on community college students. Each semester I have about 1/3 of my students in any given class disappear after the second disbursement of federal and state aid. Pay instead directly for their books and do it the first week of school. Don’t let them take out $10,000 for community college for a year. You don’t have power over the federal grants too but you do have control over the Cal Grants.
6) Release all prisoners convicted of marijuana related crimes as long as they aren’t violent crimes and let those people go back to their wheeling and dealing which stimulates the northern California economy.
7) Start working on a Proposition to abolish the Proposition process that takes up countless tax dollars and empower those elected to office in California to actually do their jobs. I’ll be the first to sign this to get it on the ballot.
8) Repeal Prop 8 since it’s not lawful to vote to take away people’s rights. And enjoy the stimulated economy that arises from all the weddings!
9) Take state employees to a voluntary 32 hour work week. Then moms and dads might have time to spend with their kids instead of sending them off to the after school programs where they are signing in and leaving anyway. Parents having that built in time off will be less likely to feign sickness to get errands done.
10) California public schools: look at the models of Japanese and Catholic schools. In Japan students clean their own schools and don’t tend to be as slovenly chiefly because they are the ones on cleaning detail. In many bare bones parochial schools the administrative duties are a shared task among faculty. This could make a lot of sense. And I know, you have to deal with the teachers union but common sense is on your side.
11) Forest management. Let's get back to traditional ecology and traditional ways to manage the forest. If we had some selective burning and cutting we might just avoid those crazy summer wildfires that take an enormous amount of resources we just don't have anymore.
Okay California and national readers...what can we do to save California from itself? If you were in a room with Arnold where would you tell him to cut? Where would you tell him to raise revenues from?
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