What Would $167.6 Million In Budget Savings Buy California?

As the dust settles on the June 8 primary, lawmakers are still grappling with how to close a $17.9 billion gap between revenues and spending commitments.

The often-missed constitutional deadline of June 15 to send a budget to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is less than one week away and appears likely to be missed again.

Complicating passage of a spending plan, the GOP governor wants to add a $1.2 billion reserve, boosting the hole to $19.1 billion, and says he will sign no budget unless it is accompanied by “pension reform,” as he defines it.

The budget problem could have been improved if some of the June candidates and big contributors had put their money where their mouths were.

For instance, GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman spent nearly $71 million of her own money on her campaign, according to contribution reports filed with the Secretary of State.

California teachers have an average salary of roughly $60,000. Whitman could have prevented 1,183 from receiving pink slips in the wake of the latest round of proposed reductions in state support for public schools.

Or she could have picked up half of the $140 million Schwarzenegger proposes to pay to operate the state park system. Previously he wanted to save the money by using oil lease revenue from increased drilling off the coast to support the department. The debacle in the Gulf led him to abandon that idea.

Taking Whitman’s $71 million and adding the $25 million Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner spent on his failed gubernatorial bid would spare the state’s cash-starved general fund $96 million in additional spending – solving nearly 70 percent of the park problem or keeping another 416.6 teachers employed.

If Pacific Gas & Electric had contributed the $46 million it spent unsuccessfully urging voters to approve Proposition 16 the state park issue would be knocked with $2 million left over to protect an additional 33.3 teachers.

Mercury General Corporation’s $15.6 million spent in favor of Proposition 17 would have lifeboated 260 teachers and probably an even higher number of librarians.

The $10 million of personal funds spent by Chris Kelly, the former chief privacy officer for Facebook, on his failed Democratic candidacy for Attorney General could have covered the $2.7 million tab of the state’s litigation with Pacific Lumber. And there would have been $7.3 million left to help another 121.6 teachers.

Or a $5 million chunk of Kelly’s remaining $7.3 million could have been used to prevent cuts proposed by the GOP governor to numerous Department of Fish and Game habitat conservation and restoration programs.

For $132.8 million, the state’s poorest aged, blind and disabled citizens would not have their cost-of-living payment decreased to the federal minimum.

A variety of proposed cutbacks in services to California’s poor who receive health care through Medi-Cal could also have been avoided.

Cough and cold medicine and nutritional supplements could still be obtained at only a $13 million cost to the candidates – just 18.5 percent of what Whitman spent on herself.

Prescriptions would not have to be limited to six per month — $4.2 million. Not even half what came out of Kelly’s pocket. And $1.5 million less than what PG&E paid to its chief political consultants during the last 13 weeks of the campaign.

Doctor or clinic visits needn’t be limited to 10 per year. A $69.2 million savings.

For $137.3 million, seniors and the disabled would not need to be enrolled in managed care.

Neither a $50 co-pay on emergency room visits nor a $100 per day co-pay — $200 maximum – would have to be imposed since the savings would be $100.6 million, well below the $167.6 million total Whitman, Poizner, Kelly, Mercury and PG&E spent on themselves.


Filed under: Budget and Economy

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