Coming Together in Washington, Falling Apart in California

More than ever, California and the nation are moving in two different directions.  No, I’m not referring to the recent election, where Californians were overwhelming in their support for Democratic nominee Barack Obama.  I’m speaking of different approaches to government, specifically budgets.

Implicit in the election of Obama is the agreement by Americans that government must step in to rescue our ailing economy.  That includes tax increases among the very wealthy to partially offset the huge hole in our national budget.  Exit polls showed that wealthy Americans accept this idea.  They voted for Obama knowing that their taxes will increase in the near future.

California is another story.  Once again, the state faces an out of whack budget.  Those of us who watch these things knew as much last September when the legislature and governor assembled a budget balanced on paper only.  That paper has now shredded, resulting in a deficit of $10 billion.  We are left with the awful choice of ripping the seams out of our infrastructure components such as public education, transportation, and care for the infirm or hiking taxes.  It’s an ugly choice, but it’s the only choice.

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger finds himself in a terrible predicament.  His fellow legislative Republicans assert that all the changes can be made by reducing services that have already been slashed.  Because of the onerous two-thirds vote to pass budget items, Democrats don’t have quite enough votes to join Schwarzenegger.  

How this gets resolved will tell us much about the California of tomorrow.  In the meantime, the glow that now lights Washington turns to fog at the Sierras.  The question is, can we see our way out?

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