Try yourself to balance the state’s budget

The Los Angeles Times has come up with an interactive tool where you can try your hand at balancing the state’s $24 billion budget shortfall.

“Cut spending, raise taxes and/or borrow to get the state out of the red,” it reads. “For each choice — drawn from proposals from across the political spectrum — we’ve tried to give some sense of the effects. As you craft your proposal, the Deficit Meter will show your progress.”

The tool is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

4 thoughts on “Try yourself to balance the state’s budget”

  1. Haven’t tried Next10 but the LAT tool pointedly hides one dramatic option that likely will need to be used: a reduction in the state’s workforce. How much would a 20% reduction save?

    Across the border here in Placer County, it was reported recently that we have 822 budgeted positions to administer our health and welfare programs. 822 salaries…I can still hardly believe that number and have been wondering if it was misreported. (The county has 3,000 total employees, so it’s not unfeasible that it’s accurate.)

    To put this in perspective, Craigslist runs the world’s largest classified ads system with 28 employees. We need 822 to manage the process of giving money away in a single county in California?

    If I were Placer County, I’d bring in my welfare director and say “figure out how to reduce bureaucracy, automate and put in better systems, because you’re going to have to administer these programs with ONLY 411 people next year.”

    That’s difficult, it’s painful, it’s not fun. I feel for those people who would lose their jobs. But it was a failure of leadership and complete irresponsibility that those jobs were ever created in the first place.

    This is going to have to happen all up and down the State of California, because we can’t find enough people to tax to pay for 239,000 state workers any more.

  2. Aaron: In the next 10 budget simulator you can cut staff, but it is not specific enough to see exactly where. Would be nice. I agree that cuts, and dramatic cuts, are necessary.

    I also think we need some way to programmatically measure performance and tie long term cuts to achieving specific metrics for programs, projects and agencies. Many of the state programs are federally mandated, or driven by state propositions. If we can’t sunset legislation passed by the people, then it will be hard to cut mandated programs without risk of litigation.

    Health and welfare are a good example of a long term problem. These functions used to be handled by the state. Post prop 13 we transfered many of these functions to the local governments. Now local governments don’t have the revenues to support the services and we are looking at cutting them even more in the current budget crises.

    If we had a national health care plan that provided every citizen basic coverage a good chunk of this expense would be federal rather than state.

    I know you know this, but this mess is not going to be easy to get out of in the long run. We need broad, systematic, top level governance and tax reform that can integrate our solutions and allow the people to make rational trade offs instead of one-off solutions that leave us in the dark about the consequences of our actions.

  3. “We need broad, systematic, top level governance and tax reform that can integrate our solutions and allow the people to make rational trade offs instead of one-off solutions that leave us in the dark about the consequences of our actions.”

    I completely agree. We had this problem for a long time at Sierra College…a lack of integrated decision making. The strategy was too often decided by who went first on the agenda. (Over the past three years, we’ve implemented strategic planning processes and are now actually choosing priorities and resourcing them…huge positive shift and it took a lot of work and change.)

    That being said, I don’t think the solution is to transfer the burden to our national government. Check out my recent blog post with the video about the President’s budget cuts, but ignore the point about how much President Obama is cutting from the budget.

    Instead, just gaze at the sheer expanse of pennies on the table, and how many of them are to the left of the line and are built-in entitlement spending.

    There is a fiscal tsunami of unbelievable proportions heading towards the United States in the form of Social Security, Medicare and President Bush’s foolhardy addition of Medicare expansions.

    If we fail to address this problem over the next 10-15 years, I think we’ll look back on California’s seemingly unsolvable problems as incredibly simple and easy in comparison.

    Adding a huge new multi-billion dollar federal entitlement to the pie would bring us to our knees even faster.

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