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California's budget bleeds out -- now what?

So, how do you like Plan B?

With last week’s budget ballot props going down in flames, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has let us know how he’ll have to make up the $5.5 billion difference.

For starters, cut CalWORKS — state welfare/workfare — completely. That saves a billion three, but it would also mean the state no longer gets a check for more than twice that amount in matching-plus funds from the feds.

But wait, as they say on the infomercials — there’s more! Cut insurance to a million poor kids, end Cal grants to incoming college freshmen, cut virtually all the money for salaries for park rangers and park maintenance people.

Even the $6 million for the state’s poison control hotline would be cut. But as the hotline’s director and our other guests argued, short-term savings would mean long-term costs, big ones. Stop answering the phones on the poison hotline, and a $6 million savings could turn into a $70 million cost, as people crowd emergency rooms and call paramedics about spider bites and bathtub cleansers. Make college unaffordable to good high school students and you create an unqualified employment pool. it goes on and on.

What surprised me weren’t the numbers — we’d gotten an inkling of how bad they’d be — but the calls. A least a third of you were waiting to say, ‘Raise taxes!’ One caller wondered how big a check the average California family would have to write to keep most services in place. And another wondered about why sin taxes — cigarettes and liquor — are so low, and whether raising them couldn’t stanch some of this budget bleeding.

Tomorrow, we plan to talk about the tens of millions the governor says he could save by letting nonviolent felons out of prison a year early — and we help you get ready for the June 1 deadline for new water use rules coming down from the DWP.

— Patt Morrison

i don’t expect that’s a widely shared viewpoint but it does suggest that the cuts raise the spectre that phil ansell at LA county’s CALWORKS evoked: a Third World scenario of unemployment, homelessness, hunger and death multiplying into the thousands, as a consequence.