An Unbudging Budget

California legislature's delayed passage of the state budget has proven detrimental in both public and private sectors.

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Yesterday California state legislators-Democrats and a few Republicans-high-fived each other victoriously after ending the state's three-month-long budget impasse. This was a surprising sight coming from officials who have been engaging in petty partisan battles for the last few months. Instead of celebrating like our politicians, the rest of us can only breathe a sigh of relief that the long overdue budget revision has passed.

The rest of us understand that failing to take action after months of being in a fiscal emergency is not really a cause for celebration. It's a cause for concern as to the kind of officials we've been electing to represent us in the legislature. It's a cause for concern as to the priorities of these legislators, who would rather ponder their re-election runs three years in advance than stave off furloughs and layoffs for thousands of state workers. It's a cause for concern as to the level of paralyzing partisanship in the Capitol, as Democrats and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger worked until the early morning hours just to get one more Republican to cross the aisle and compromise.

Of course, the budget agreement is a good thing. But it should not have taken this to reach a compromise and legislators should not have let the state's financial situation get this bad. Californians have had their tax refunds halted and students have had their Cal Grants stalled-those sacrifices should have been motivation enough for Republican legislators to get their act together and come to an agreement with Democrats. It should not take the threat of California entering financial ruin for these legislators to take action.

The irresponsible job performance of Senate Republicans in the last few days is only exacerbated by the country's financial downturn-funds that normally would keep the state afloat until tax revenues come in are unavailable because of the credit crisis, which led to the emergency budget sessions in the first place. Granted, Republicans' resistance to raising taxes is a fair concern-no one wants to raise taxes, which could hurt struggling families. But the fiscal reality necessitated a tax increase to make up for the massive $41 billion deficit, and Republicans ought to have realized that and compromised. For the state's Republicans to prioritize their own political futures over the economic well-being of their constituents and the state is unacceptable and blatantly irresponsible.

While the partisan battles continued, the uncertainty of having no firm budget for this year has plagued programs and people across the state with ongoing financial concerns. Without knowing the level of midyear cuts, entities like the University of California have had to cut current operations, such as classes and hiring, to prepare for uncertain future funding cuts. The budget situation has had negative effects in other areas as well. For example, the plight of state workers during this crisis has been well-documented; on Tuesday, Gov. Schwarzenegger sent out 20,000 notices informing state workers that their jobs are in jeopardy and half of them will be laid off.

California's cash-strapped status has also halted hundreds of infrastructure projects statewide, which in turn hurts employees who were set to participate in these projects. California's unemployment rate has reached 9.1 percent, a figure higher than the national average, and undoubtedly the state's residents, schools and businesses have been suffering greatly during this time of crisis. Meanwhile, state Republicans have played the same old political game, making no behavioral change to compensate for the hardships their constituents have been facing. The politicians may have been above politics today but they should have stopped playing their farcical game months ago, before all this damage was done.






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