We are finally getting a sense of what Gov. Brown proposes to cut to try to close the over $20 billion budget deficit we face. The Sacramento Bee provides a rundown here, but let me boil it down further.
What I would call serious cuts includes:
–significant cuts to the California State University and the University of California budgets.
–eliminate redevelopment agencies altogether
–eliminate enterprise zones
–cuts in Medi-Cal costs by requiring co-payments, limiting doctor visits, and cutting rates paid to doctors
–reduce SSI/SSP welfare payments for low-income elderly, blind and disabled to the federal minimum
What I would call more token cuts includes:
–divert low-level offenders to county jails
–take money from funds early childhood development and mental health care created by ballot initiatives approved by voters.
–reductions to state parks and libraries
–cutting the Governor’s office expenses 25%
–cutting the number of hours for in-home support services works for elderly and disabled.
–reducing standard state welfare payments, impose tighter time limits, and eliminate some subsidized services.
The big chunks of the budget are education, higher education, corrections, welfare, and state workers.
Brown is not proposing education cuts, but is cutting higher ed somewhat. California has a great University system, but it is bloated and inefficient with no pressure to figure out how to focus spending on providing higher ed and doing so efficiently. They outsource virtually nothing, preferring to do it all with overpaid and over-benefited state workers. And college is relatively cheap in California. Time for the Regents of both systems to buckle down and cut costs, not services, and probably raise tuition.
Brown proposes no real cuts in corrections. We incarcerate too many people, and, like the colleges, we apply no pressure on the system to be efficient. Correctional officers are among the highest paid in the nation, with amazing benefits. Even worse, the organization is unbelievably top heavy.
Brown’s cuts to welfare are modest. CA has a ridiculous welfare system, so generous we have a welfare population far beyond any other state. Getting benefits down to reasonable level, getting serious about welfare to work and limits on benefits for the able, and cutting down the bloat in the bureaucracy are crucial.
But Brown gives state workers a pass. True, he says all state workers will have to accept new contracts similar to ones Schwarzenegger negotiated with a few unions, that very slightly reduce their outrageous benefits. But with budget problems of this scale, we have to go way beyond that. It’s time to set pension and health care benefits for new workers to reasonable levels, require existing workers to pay more for their benefits packages, and, most important, start cutting the state workforce dramatically.