Governor shows us some fiscal ‘chutzpah’
Gov. Gray Davis is a bit like the child who kills his parents, then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. That’s the common definition for a Yiddish term, “chutzpah,” which loosely translated means brazenness or gall. Another definition is a governor who fiddles around as the state budget threatens to balloon to gargantuan proportions, then brags about how bold he’s going to be in responding to the crisis.
Davis engaged in some fiscal chutzpah last night in his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature when he promised one of the “toughest” budget plans ever presented, with “no tricks, no gimmicks, no evasions.”
How “tough” was it? Actually, the governor did not actually list any specific actions he will take, not even dropping a hint that he will raise taxes or fees, which everyone thinks he will have to do. We’ll have to wait till Friday for the details, when he’ll dump the telephone-book-sized budget on the lawmakers before heading off for the weekend.
What that tome will reveal – what Davis intends to do about the $35 billion budget shortfall he has said his “experts” foresee – may be the same sort of smoke and mirrors that were used last year. At a time when a looming deficit crisis was apparent, a budget was passed and signed that was floated on borrowed money, inflated revenue estimates, and bookkeeping tricks.
Is Davis’ $35 billion deficit projection for real, or inflated for political wiggle room? Who knows? So many numbers have been flying around in the last few weeks that reality is a moving target. But one thing is certain: this is no economic sniffle – it’s pneumonia. And when Sacramento gets sick, small counties like Nevada County go on life support.
It is times like these that those of us up here in the Sierra foothills have to be honest with ourselves and realize no White Knight is going to ride up and rescue us. The truth is that, except for some plans for modest economic initiatives, the state has little power to jump-start the economy. Unlike Washington, it can’t print its own money, adjust interest rates or make any major economic maneuvers. Even Davis’ much-touted plan to accelerate bond spending will be hard to accomplish as Wall Street becomes ever more skeptical of California’s laissez-faire management.
Our state assemblyman, Rick Keene, had it right last night when he said that what Davis needs to do is what every smart businessman does – cut expenses, and fast. Before we start raising taxes, or slashing programs that offer essential services, we need to do some honest prioritizing of what programs and departments need to be thrown overboard.
We’ll see on Friday which direction the governor will take.
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The California State Association of Counties, the voice of California’s 58 counties, would like to thank Nevada County Supervisor Heidi Hall for her strong leadership in supporting broadband for all in the state budget.