Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why California Needs Meg Whitman

It couldn't be illustrated more clearly than in the article below. The alternative candidates are without the needed experience and capacity to address the crucial issues facing the State. As noted previously, as California goes, so goes the nation. May Californian's choose wisely.



BIG SUR, Calif. -- As Sacramento squabbles over the state's $42 billion deficit, Californians are getting a bitter taste of what's to come after the steep budget cuts that are inevitable when legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger finally hammer out a deal.

Some world-famous parks like Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park may not open this year. After-school programs in low-income areas are being scuttled, putting high-risk teens on the street just as police forces are being cut. Schools are closing classrooms, and some highway projects have ground to a halt. The state may not be able to monitor some sex offenders as required under law.

A budget deal may restore some of the missing funds. But everyone knows that not all monies will flow again after a deal, and Californians increasingly fear they are seeing a hint of their future.

Jim Carlton/The Wall Street Journal

A state parks superintendent inspects the site of an unfinished bridge at California's Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The world-renowned park on the Central California coast may not open this summer because funds to complete a new bridge to a large campground have been frozen amid talks by California lawmakers to resolve a $42 billion budget deficit.

Jim Carlton/The Wall Street Journal

Concrete buttresses have been built for a bridge crossing the Big Sur River to a campground on the other side, but work to finish the bridge itself was still underway when the project ground to a halt a few weeks ago.

"Before it gets better, it's going to get a lot worse," said Joseph Valentine, director of Contra Costa County's Department of Employment and Human Services. The department, which administers social services such as food stamps, has cut 12%, or $25 million, of its budget. It has managers answering reception-desk phones, and Mr. Valentine expects another round of cuts.

The empty coffers have hit some California icons. Pfeiffer Big Sur may not reopen this summer because work on a new bridge to the campground was halted, part of a $6 million renovation project that state officials have ordered frozen along with hundreds of millions of dollars in other state infrastructure projects. Dan and Vickie Coughlin of Torrance, Calif., face not camping in the park with their daughters, ages 10 and 13, for the first time since they were born. When they were advised they couldn't book reservations, "it just broke my heart, and my kids almost cried," said Ms. Coughlin.

Other states face budget cuts too, but California's budget mess stands out for its size. Its deficit is projected at $42 billion by mid-2010. Since Gov. Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency 14 weeks ago, he and lawmakers have been deadlocked over how to close the gap. Democrats want tax increases and moderate spending cuts; Republicans seek deep cuts and no tax increases; the governor wants a combination.

The governor's office warned Tuesday that if no budget deal is reached by Friday, the state would send layoff warnings to 20,000 workers. Gov. Schwarzenegger also said he intends to cut 10,000 jobs through layoffs and attrition to save $750 million over 17 months.

Meanwhile, the state is raising money in unprecedented ways. The treasurer's office said Tuesday that it is close to selling $200 million in general-obligation bonds to the Bay Area Toll Authority, a municipal agency, to fund public-works projects around the San Francisco Bay area.

While Sacramento talks, money is drying up in places like Contra Costa County, where 40,000 families have applied for 350 available slots for Section 8 vouchers -- a federal subsidy that allows low-income families to rent in the private market. "The level of desperation is just heartbreaking," said Joseph Villareal, executive director of the Contra Costa Housing Authority.

California Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Jim Carlton/The Wall Street Journal

Pfeiffer Big Sur is so popular that campsites like this one,in a grove of towering redwoods, are almost always booked as far as seven months in advance.

Marin County's Novato Unified School District alarmed parents with a proposal to cut its entire sports program to help save $6 million over two years, which would affect about 75% of Novato's 8,600 students. "When the community heard about the possible cut, they freaked out," said Superintendent Jan La Torre-Derby, who adds that "it's not set in stone yet."

The California State University system -- the nation's largest -- faces new cuts after already seeing reduced class offerings, increased classroom sizes and delays in students being able to graduate after a series of budget cuts in recent years.

Things could get worse as more budget cuts loom. The state may not be able to monitor sex offenders as required under a 2006 law that calls for sex offenders to be on GPS monitoring for life and to live more than 2,000 feet from schools and parks. In January, corrections officials said they were monitoring all 6,622 paroled sex offenders with GPS devices, after Gov. Schwarzenegger set aside $106 million in last year's budget for the program. But because the law contained no revenue-raising mechanism, authorities say it is unclear whether they will have funds to continue monitoring.

—Stu Woo contributed to this article.

Write to Jim Carlton at jim.carlton@wsj.com and Bobby White at bobby.white@wsj.com

1 comment:

steven said...

California needs and deserves stronger leadership. California has bestowed privilages to undocumented aliens that even I as a U.S. citizen do not have. That speaks volumes. Many Americans have tossed their very own birthright into the trash bin. I am all for sharing this nation with those who go through the legal channels to become productive citizens. I dont want to share this with illegal aliens. Our forefathers fought and died for this Republic. We must do what is necessary to preserve their sacrifices. Without a strong bond to the past, the future is uncertain and bleak.