California Dreaming

I love California.  It was my first state and I would have been happy to never leave but my father’s career took us to the Midwest when I was a child.  I always knew I’d be back though, and I returned for college at the age of 17 attending first San Diego State University and then UC Santa Barbara for graduate school.  I’ve left this state twice – for a three and a half year stint with the Bishop Museum on the island of Oahu, and then for our ill-starred attempt at a better life (financially) in Colorado.  When we were told to move to a lower elevation for my son’s health I didn’t seriously contemplate moving anywhere other than back ‘home’ to California.

I love California because it is a big beautiful diverse place, with all sorts of landscapes and people.  I love the weather and the proximity of the ocean.  I love the possibility of having orange trees and avocados growing in your backyard as we did at the house we rented during grad school.  I love having the snow close enough to visit but not near enough to complicate one’s life (I hated the constant numbing cold and snow shoveling in Colorado’s winters).  I like it that my children’s classrooms are filled with peoples of all colors and that the state as a whole is more open minded and accepting of a family like mine.  I would be happy to live here the rest of my life. 

My loyalties firmly stated I have to say that California is not an easy place to live these days.  The state is in deep financial trouble.  Without going into the myriad reasons that have propelled California deeply into debt (mainly because it’s an extremely complicated history of events and choices that spans over 30 years, and economists are divided about who is to blame) it is clear that the state is not healthy.  With a debt soaring towards 10 billion dollars, an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent, declining tax revenues and rising spending, expensive public pensions, deep cuts in education and social services, the California dream has become downright nightmarish!

With problems as extensive and complicated as these there is obviously no easy fix and as you might expect there is a real “it’s going to get worse before it gets better” tone coming out of Sacramento in these early days of our new governor’s administration.  The preview of his ‘tough love’ budget proves that it’s going to get a lot worse for people in our situation.  Among other things Brown proposes:

  • Medi-Cal: Require patients to provide co-payments for services, limit doctor visits and reduce rates paid to health providers.
  • Healthy Families: Increase participant premiums and co-pays, eliminate vision care.
  • Welfare: Cut grants, impose stricter time limits on recipients getting grants, eliminate child care for 11- and 12-year-olds.

Because we have opted not to make use of most of these services while receiving unemployment benefits (the kids are covered under Medi-Cal but we have not used it so far as our doctor is not a Medi-Cal provider), we won’t be immediately affected by these cuts. If I haven’t found a job by the time my unemployment benefits run out we will find the ‘safety net’ considerably less helpful.  Other cuts Brown proposes include cutting back staffing on wildfires, cutting the governor’s budget by 25 percent, closing state parks with low attendance rates, cutting out all funding for local libraries and state fairs, making deep cuts in the services developmentally disabled people receive, making deep cuts to higher education, and eliminating transitional housing for 18 and 19-year old foster children.  He proposes to raise revenue by eliminated various tax loopholes, asking voters to extend a 2009 tax increases to sales, vehicle and incomes that is set to expire, and to continue borrowing from special funds. 

Naturally this budget has already attracted criticism from both sides.  But according to the Sacramento Bee this is a calculated move:

“Brown has said his budget’s strength is exactly its mix of elements unsavory to both major parties. Its combination of cuts, an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion in tax extensions and internal borrowing bridges the state’s estimated $25 billion-plus budget deficit over the next 18 months.”

The governor wants movement on his budget proposal in 60 days, which doesn’t give him much time to sell it to voters who are fed up with government and appear to have their heads in the sand when it comes to state finances.  As the LA Times says:

In making the sale, Brown’s biggest problem will be his buyers. Poll after poll has shown that Californians do not know where the state’s money comes from nor where it goes, leading to fundamental misunderstandings about where savings can be had.

I hope that voters will tune into the conversation about the budget and California’s future and be willing to be educated about the hard choices ahead of us.  I hope legislators will remove partisan blinders and let go of some of their sacred cows.  I hope brighter minds and bigger hearts will prevail and that attention will be focused on improving the job situation.  If more of us could get back to work it would be an enormous benefit to the financial health and welfare of California and all Californians.  Governor Brown says he is optimistic about the future of California.  I want to be optimistic too.  Let’s  bring back the Golden State!

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8 Responses to California Dreaming

  1. Pat says:

    Jerry’s not doing anything to either retain or attract business to California. If you want to work for the government, state, local or Federal, this might be a good place to be, but a lot of other people want those jobs as well.

    But I still don’t understand why you don’t move to a state that has jobs. Diversity and nice weather are swell, but they don’t pay the bills. The job market in CA isn’t going to get better in the next two years, much less the next 6 months.

  2. Fawn says:

    I thought you might find this interesting, I sure did! It is titled “US jobless numbers hide scale of problem”. I particularly liked the last 2 paragraphs.

    Whether they’re “unemployed,” “marginally attached” or “discouraged,” they’re all still suffering in what President Obama’s economic advisor Larry Summers recently called the “human recession”.

    And while their lack of a job may not be counted in the headline numbers, come the November mid-term elections, their votes will be.

    Here is the link http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8499693.stm

  3. Nancy says:

    And those of us who do pay taxes in CA really don’t have any more money to give. I just moved here and my state taxes went from 4.5% to 10.5%. I get much less for my money as my kids can’t go to the public schools near us (too crowded). As it is, I only bring home half my paycheck (I do have nice benefits that I pay for pre-tax, but you can’t buy electricity or food with nice benefits), so I don’t think it is fair for the state to ask for more.

    Cuts have to be made and it’s going to hurt and I hope the tax increase Brown asks for are voted down. I had the opposite opinion of the federal tax cuts and wish they would not have passes because that just increase the national debt. I want to pay for things before we use them both in state and federal government.

    • Tiffany says:

      We also need to consider that many people in California are now supporting other family members. Many people on my street have taken in uncles, sisters, grandpas, and adult children who can no long afford to live on their own. We definitely can not afford tax increases.

      I was pleased to see Gov. Brown reducing the number of employees who have cell phones paid for by the state. We need other good ideas like that one to balance the budget.

  4. Lynn says:

    Valerie is right…when they cut reimbursement the honest providers (the ones that only bill for services they actually provide) really have no choice but to stop taking MediCal. I used to work at a dental office and we could not take MediCal because it pays far less than the cost of providing the service, and that was 20 years ago. It’s not greed; accepting MediCal would have literally driven us out of business. Lots of MD’s don’t even take Medicare any more, for same reason. The county hospitals worked far better than MediCal.

  5. maja says:

    So y’all are gonna have to pay more for less services, I hope it’s worth it to get the state back into shape. What else can they do, really.

  6. Tiffany says:

    It’s time for California to finally face some tough financial problems. Now if we really wanted to solve the state’s financial issues we’d start asking the tough questions like:

    Why do we pay so much to support state government? We don’t need 30 secretaries in 1 government building. We don’t need fancy copiers. A 3 year old computer works just fine, no need for $3,500 laptops. Limos should be exchanged for the family sedan (and yes a 1998 car will run just fine with proper care). And for the small tasks, what about letting our local high school and college kids volunteer? We could give our young people some great experience and real responsibility.

    Why was the state funding local libraries? If people want a town library, donate some books, have citizens donate their old computers, and get people to volunteer to staff the front check out desk and read the kids some stories. If no one will volunteer or donate, then I guess we don’t really want a library. Also many people can’t use their local library anymore since it is filled with drunk and drugged people or perverts using the computers to view porn. The librarians refuse to kick these people out in the name of “tolerance”. Well if my family can’t use the library, do you think I will want to support it with my tax dollars?

    And why do we spend so much on “education”? Little of the money goes to teachers, most of it goes to overpaid administration and ridiculous school supplies. Kids don’t need fancy computers or high tech gyms. We don’t need new math books every year or expensive art supplies (some donated art and craft supplies will work just fine). We ought to bring back the 3 Rs. Anything outside of that can be staffed with parent volunteers. No volunteers? Well then I guess the 3 Rs will have to do.

    Why are we paying for school breakfast and lunch programs? Some schools are even providing dinner now! We already have food stamps which are supposed to provide breakfast money. Time for us to choose either free school breakfast
    and lunch programs or food stamps.

    Why were we supporting state fairs with tax payer dollars? If my neighbor wants to ride the ferris wheel he ought to pay for it out of his own pocket. Same goes for the merry go round.

    State parks are great, but if people liked them so much shouldn’t we be able to support them primarily with volunteers? Instead we need to hire people to clean up trash thrown all about our beautiful beaches. My local state park isn’t visitable anymore by decent folks since the police refuse to arrest gay men who use the park bathroom as a hookup joint and drug den. No parent would ever let their son use such a facility. When decent people can’t use the state parks, we will want to stop supporting them with our tax dollars.

  7. Valerie says:

    I work at an out of state hospital, and am leery of Medicaid cuts. When they cut Medicaid payments to doctors in our state, many doctors stopped taking Medicaid all together. This has forced an influx of people to the ER for routine care. As a native Californian, I too, would love to see it return to a great state

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