Now that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's new budget proposal has had a day to marinate, let's take a look at a few small, but noteworthy items and themes found among the many micro-facts.
Next Time, Just Give Us The Cash: The governor's budget includes a $68.2 million reimbursement to the counties for conducting last May's special election, an election he and legislators called in hopes voters would ratify a package of budget related proposals. As we know, the voters said no to five of the six proposals.
So, in the order they appeared on the ballot, the cost to taxpayers for each doomed 'yes' vote was: Proposition 1A (budget reserve & tax hike) -- $40.88; Proposition 1B (education supplemental money) -- $37.18; Proposition 1C (lottery securitization) -- $39.91; Proposition 1D (tobacco tax shift) -- $41.76; and Proposition 1E (mental health funding shift) -- $42.68. (And remember, that's just taxpayer dollars; if you factored in all of the political campaign cash spent, it would be much higher.)
Budget Retreads: The new budget proposal is full of ideas that are not so new. First up, 2009's Prop 1D and Prop 1E mentioned above are back, with Schwarzenegger again counting as a budget solution the shift of a total of $1 billion into the general fund and out of programs earmarked by voters. The governor is assuming they'd be placed on the June statewide ballot. Also back from the dead: reductions in the number of Californians eligible for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), as well as elimination of more optional Medi-Cal benefits for adults, and a 4.8% surcharge (tax?) on property insurance to pay for firefighting. Each was rejected by the Legislature in 2009. All of these retreads beg the question: what's the governor know that no one else knows, making it reasonable to assume these will pass Capitol muster? So far, no one has a good answer.
Would You Rather..? The budget is chock full of items that have, even in the first few hours, been called clever, cynical, or both. These are cases where the governor and his budget team have tied together items that have no discernible nexus, and are destined to leave legislators (especially Democrats) wringing their hands about choices that they see as lose-lose.
It began on Wednesday, when Schwarzenegger announced plans for a constitutional amendment to link funding for prisons with spending on the University of California and California State University. Does that mean future debates about scarce budget resources would pit prison correctional officers against college students? On Friday, we got a few more. Tops on the list: funding state parks with a controversial new offshore oil drilling proposal, a $197 million dollar linkage pitting enviros against... themselves? Or how about the big gas tax move pitting drivers against public transportation users; drivers would supposedly get lower gas prices... but only if all current general fund methods of funding public transit are scrapped.
For Your (Re)Consideration, Feds: Schwarzenegger is again asking the federal government to do what it's supposed to do in paying for the cost of incarcerating undocumented immigrants. The program is the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), and its been the bane of governors long before Schwarzenegger arrived on the scene. What's unusual this time, though, is that the governor's budget actually relies on the money being delivered... even though U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said the Guv's demand for almost $880 million would amount to 92% of all SCAAP funds going to the states.
About That Magic Billion Bucks: A great symbol of the gimmickry agreed to in 2009 to balance the books was the magic $1 billion savings, achieved by pushing a state worker paycheck from June 30 of this year to July 1 -- thus moving the cost of those salaries into the 2010-11 fiscal year and, voila, saving the state money this year. Turns out the dollar amount is now being scored as $938 million, and the new Schwarzenegger budget plan now has to account for those paychecks as an extra cost. The really amazing thing about this gimmick is that while the "savings" was realized only once, the one day shift is now slated to happen every single year from here on out.