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Budget? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Budget!

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Many Californian are not aware - or even care - that our state government has missed yet another budget deadline.  The due date was June 15th.


Back in March, I did a post called, "Hard Financial Choices For California".  Well, those hard choices are still ahead of us, but nothing much seems to be getting done about them - $20 billion worth of them.

The governor has the current iteration of his budget proposal online.  As I went through the budget proposal, I was struck by how much duplication of process we have got.  And the plain old waste of our tax dollars on special projects and commissions for which the state has no justifiable reason to participate.

What follow are just a tiny, tiny handful of things upon which we're wasting our tax dollars -

Department of Alcohol & Drug Programs - $477,000,000

The Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs provides leadership, policy, coordination, and investments in the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of a comprehensive statewide system of alcohol and other drug prevention, treatment, and recovery services, as well as problem gambling prevention and treatment services. As the state's alcohol and drug authority, the Department is responsible for inviting the collaboration of other departments, local public and private agencies, providers, advocacy groups, and individuals in establishing standards for the statewide service delivery system.
If an individual makes the personal decision to ruin their life by becoming an alcoholic or drug addict, that is their choice.  That choice may kill them.  The state has no obligation to pay for the bad choices these individuals have made, yet we spend half a billion dollars a year on this.
California Arts Council - $5,704,000

The California Arts Council consists of eleven members, nine appointed by the Governor and one appointed by the President pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly. The Council establishes general policy and approves program allocations.

The Council recognizes that the Arts are essential for the cultural, educational, social and economic development of California. The Council seeks to further its mandates and services to the public through the development of partnerships with the public and private sectors and by providing support to the state's non-profit arts and cultural community, which are broad-based and extended across the state from its largest metropolitan areas to its most rural areas.
The Council is statutorily required to:

* Encourage artistic awareness, participation, and expression among the citizens of California.
* Help independent local groups develop their own arts programs.
* Promote the employment of artists and those skilled in crafts in both the public and private sectors.
* Provide for the exhibition of art works in public buildings throughout California.
* Enlist the aid of all state agencies in the task of ensuring the fullest expression of our artistic potential.
It is government waste of this sort that drives me the craziest.  It is everywhere.

We're paying $6 million a year to political cronies under the pretense of encouraging The Arts.  Why would the state even be in this "business"?  The next time some politician threatens to reduce the number of police, fire or emergency personnel, ask them how many of those jobs would be saved if we didn't spend $6 million on promoting paper machete and paint-by-numbers classes.
Postsecondary Education Commission - $11,048,000

The California Postsecondary Education Commission is responsible for the planning and coordination of education beyond high school. The Commission provides policy analyses, advice and recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor on statewide policy and funding priorities for colleges, universities, and other postsecondary education institutions. The Commission has 16 members: one member each from the governing boards of the University of California, the California State University, and the California Community Colleges; one representative of the independent colleges and universities, appointed by the Governor; one representative from the State Board of Education; two student representatives, appointed by the Governor; and nine representatives of the general public, three each appointed by the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Senate Rules Committee. The Commission selects its chairperson from among the public members.
What could they possibly be spending $11 million a year on?  Are all of the college leaders "double-dipping" and getting some sort of a stipend FOR DOING THEIR JOB?!  This is just more of the same "political pay-back" of sending money to political cronies.

This last one is one of the "Poster Children" for why our state is in the mess we're in.   We bring this stuff on ourselves -
Institute for Regenerative Medicine - $337,157,000

Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act, was approved by California voters on November 2, 2004, providing $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions, and calling for the establishment of a new state agency to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities, and other vital research opportunities. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (Institute) was established in early 2005.

The Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC) is the 29-member governing board for the Institute. The ICOC members are public officials, appointed on the basis of their experience earned in California's leading public universities, non-profit academic and research institutions, patient advocacy groups, and the biotechnology industry.
Why do we do stuff like this?  A third of a billion dollars.  If private business wants to get into stem cell research, let them go to it.  Let them round up their venture capitalists and get all of the funding they can get.

And look how the math on this works.  Prop 71 authorized bonds that brought in $3 billion.  The state can spend up to $350 million per year on this boondoggle - so that means the money will last around 10 years or so (give or take).

You and I get to pay $200 million a year in bond repayments for ..... wait for it ..... 30 YEARS!  We're paying $6 billion over 30 years for 10 years of "benefit".  And we have no idea if any of the money we're spending will actually provide the state with any benefit.

If this was such a great idea, couldn't we have just said we'd spend the $200 million a year we're paying on bond payments, and require the recipients to show us how they're going to repay that money?

Nope, in California, it's give, give, give and spend, spend, spend.  Don't worry about the economic realities.  As long as it "feels good," let's do it!

Honestly, I don't know why this upsets me so much.  The reason our state government isn't in any kind of a panic is because they know The Mother Of All Bailouts is coming.  There is no way the federal government is going to allow California to fail.  It would (further) cripple the country.  We're the biggest of the Too Big To Fail states.

A check will be cut, a stern finger will be wagged in our direction by Washington, and nothing systemic will change.  We'll just kick the can down the road, putting off our responsibilities a bit longer.

Thank you, non-Californians, for your donation to help clean up our mess.

Chief Instructor can be followed at Accept The Challenge.

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Anonymous said...
June 23, 2010 at 6:36 PM  

Every public school has about 130%-150% of the teachers they need. That is if your local middle school has 12 class rooms they have 15-18 full time teachers working there. Not to mention the teachers aides etc. Probably not the best idea even when the state is rich but incredibly stupid when they are in deep economic Doo-Doo. This modern day feather-bedding is simply the result of run-away unions. If they simply fired all the excess teachers they could probably balance the budget. But they should go a step further and ask every supervisor working for the state to make a list of their least important/productive employees and fire the loest 10%. Every department is over staffed. There is a lot they could do but they won't because the legislators do NOT work for you they work for the unions.

Chief Instructor said...
June 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM  

Your last suggestion - getting rid of the unproductive employees - is where the rub is. The unions will not allow the teachers to be held accountable.

"The kids are too unruly" or "They come from poor families who don't care" or some other such excuse that is NOT tolerated in any other venture.

I've written to politicians in the past, that all the teachers should have to do is to show an increase in individual student skills and knowledge each year.

You independently test the kids on day one, and you test them on the last day of school. If the kids as a whole saw a rise in skills/knowledge when compared to the baseline set on Day One, you get to keep your job (you did what was expected of you). The teachers with the largest increases get raises.

If you are flat or decline, you get one more year to fix YOUR teaching problem. Fail, and you're fired.

Just like the rest of us in the Real World.

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