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California Budget Crisis Diaries: Pay the bills by screwing education

This story was reported for the San Diego News Network on June 3, 2010.

See original copy of story.

It’s that time again, California. It’s time for us to bake in the sun while those who we elected into office figure out how to close yet another budget deficit by fiscal year’s end. That’s right, lawmakers have 28 days to figure out how to close a $19 billion deficit.

Here’s the latest scoop on the budget streets.

Making the budget process easier: Legislators have passed two bills with the intention of making the budget approval process easier.

According to The Associated Press, the bills supported by Democrats and nonprofit California Forward, was approved Wednesday by the state Senate.

“One measure that passed, SB1426, would require the governor to submit a two-year spending plan and a five-year fiscal forecast to the Legislature in every odd-numbered year, starting in 2011.

The other, SB1020, would mandate performance-based reviews of every state program at least once every 10 years.

Supporters called the actions a good first step toward improving the state’s budget process.”

The bills may come in handy as the state approaches the end of fiscal year 2011 and with a history of passing budgets pretty late…this could help.

Sufficient cash with a catch: Offering some good news to Californians is State Controller John Chiang. Chiang released a letter to lawmakers Wednesday informing them that the Golden State will be in the black until the end of the month.

He wrote, “Based on the May Revision revenue and spending estimates provided by the Department of Finance, and including the actual cash receipts and expenditures my office tracks, California appears to have sufficient resources to meet all of its payment obligations and maintain a prudent cash cushion to address unanticipated developments through the month of August.”

However, Chiang noted, that two factors come into play when considering how the state will be able to pay its debters this summer: the deferral of $4.7 billion from K-12 education, higher education, and local governments” and “continued reliance on borrowing as much as $20 billion from special funds.”

LAO proposals: While lawmakers from both sides figure out how to close the budget deficit, one state employee has offered his own solutions.

According to The Clarion Online, the state’s legislative analyst would start with education.

“Mac Taylor, the state’s legislative analyst, has recommended raising community college per-unit fees to $40, reducing funds for physical education courses, and suspending the state’s education funding mandate.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office also proposed reducing funds for physical education courses in community colleges.”

Taylor also contested the Governor’s proposal, which would eliminate CalWORKs.

“The LAO also suggests that despite the governor’s assumption that the state would continue to receive all expected federal funding for child care, which could total about $660 million in 2010-11, it is still unclear whether California would in fact receive the same amount of federal funding, given the absence of state funding.”

So what will happen in the next 28 days? Who knows? Let’s plan to vote on June 8 and hope for a better budget outcome.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network.