Monday, February 09, 2009

I Am Chump.

Tonight I prepared and e-filed my tax returns. I did the long form and declared all my income and took no unlawful deductions. Heck, I even paid a use tax on my state return for online purchases I didn't pay sales tax on at the time of purchase. Joe Biden would call me a patriot, more patriotic than Tom Daschle or Tim Geithner.

But I feel like a chump. Not because I did my duty and paid my taxes. No, I'm a chump because I live in California. In this state, the government can't get its act together and pass a budget that works. Instead, California's government is running out of money and the state's controller has threatened to delay paying state tax refunds. Already, the controller has notified some vendors that the state will delay payments for services rendered for at least 30 days.

There is no solution in sight. We have a legislature gridlocked by partisan division. The parties are united in one thing only: their stubborn refusal to face facts and deal with the state's funding catastrophe.

The governor has no political clout whatsoever. He's a Republican (well, in name only) in a state where every other statewide elected official, but one, is a Democrat, and where both houses of the legislature are dominated by strong Democratic majorities. Arnold is a leader without followers and supporters. As a Republican he gets no support from Sacramento Democrats. He came in as a Republican conservative on money matters and liberal on social issues. Over time, he's morphed into a Republican, still liberal on social issues and no longer fiscally conservative. That has lost him the support of Republicans in the legislature. His political one man show has left him as weak as a girly man.

But the governor has done one thing right. He's tried to save money by cutting state payroll costs. First, he tried to cramdown state employee salaries to the federal minimum wage when the state entered its new fiscal year back in July without a budget. It's a measure of the strength of this state's public employee unions that the governor's plan went nowhere.

Now the governor has ordered state employees to take off two days of unpaid leave each month. This amounts to a 10 percent pay cut, albeit at 10 percent less work. But it's a measure of the governor's weakness and this state's immense partisan division that employees who work in departments run by elected state officials have been told to report to work by their bosses.

For example, employees of the state controller's department have been told to report to work. The controller won't save any money by reducing his employees' salaries. Instead, he saves money by withholding money from vendors and taxpayers.

So, that's California. In the middle of a terrible recession state employees get to keep their jobs, a small percentage are forced to take a 10 percent pay cut by getting two unpaid days off per month, but most get to keep their full salaries. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the state is around 9 percent and taxpayers who overpaid the state have to wait for their refunds. Chumps. We're a state full of chumps. But we've got the best weather in the country.


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Unemployment is at 10% in Cali, last I heard, as compared to 7.9% nationally. We are total chumps, I have to agree. My personal job search has recently expanded to locations within an hour and a half by plane. I can't help but feel that sunshine is a bit overrated, and certainly not worth its current premium.
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