Fiscal Fix Needed Now

STATE ISSUES: The 100-day delay to pass a state budget is the latest installment in a long history of costly California deadlocks.

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Most people would never dream of completing a project three months after the set deadline, especially if that assignment was to address a $19.1 billion deficit. Yet this is not only the reality in the California budget process; it has become the standard.

State legislators ended the customary wait for a budget on Friday, 100 days after the June 15 deadline. This delay broke the record for California's longest budget impasse.

We might sound like a broken record in condemning these delays since chronic tardiness has become a given in state politics. The June deadline, ingrained in California's constitution, is almost laughable in light of when budgets are actually approved. In the last 30 years lawmakers have only met the deadline five times.

Frustratingly, no one person in the capitol can be blamed for working in this inherently flawed process, just as no individual can single-handedly break the deadlock. The 30 years of mostly missed deadlines shows that voters cannot hold their representatives accountable - delays with the current procedures seem inevitable no matter who is in office.

However, just because these inconceivable delays have become pattern does not make them any more acceptable. Something has to change and other options, like looking into adjusting the two-thirds majority required to pass the budget, must be considered. The cost to wait is too high.

State workers, local governments and public higher education suffer during such delays. This year, the University of California had to borrow roughly $400 million to fund Cal Grants and operating costs - funds that should have come from the state but were gridlocked by the budget process. Although the budget has now come through with $305 million restored from the severe cutbacks last year, the university still has to pay interest on the loan it took out to keep these programs afloat.

While we are glad more funding came through for the university than last year, it is hard to know how big of a victory this actually is in light of continuous uncertainty at the state level. It is time to break the cycle to make sure that this statewide standstill can finally pass.






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