Depending which side of the political aisle one consults in the state Capitol, California either has a revenue problem or a spending problem. But we would offer a third analysis -- California government has a credibility problem.
The voters have been told so many lies and exposed to so many deceitful practices, we have become jaded about anything that comes from Sacramento, especially when it involves public money.
To be fair, most state governments, from time to time, create tension with their constituents. It is the nature of the beast. But in California it is a practiced art.
For example, we were told that deregulation of the electricity industry was a dandy thing. So dandy, in fact, that complex legislation was passed unanimously on the last night of a session. The legislation was placed on the ballot and voters were told it would be great. And it was great -- for the thieves at Enron, that is.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told us that we should repeal the car tax and that we could get out of a huge deficit hole by borrowing money and that we would tear up the state credit cards. How well did that work for us?
Now Jerry Brown tells us we are in a fiscal crisis and that we desperately need more money to fund schools and essential services. At the same time he has plowed ahead with a horribly expensive, deceptive and now-unpopular high-speed rail project and been unable to pass meaningful pension reform.
That tends to belie the oft-advanced notion of lawmakers hacking through the budget with a bloody machete and rather suggests a clever little game of that old political pastime "hide the ball."
This comes against the landscape of the current poster child for ball hiding, the state Department of Parks and Recreation. It played the game so well, in fact, that it may even have caught the governor off guard when it was revealed that the department had stashed more than $50 million in state funds even as the administration told us we had to close parks statewide to cover some of the deficit.
Those are but a few examples. We could go on. We'll bet you can too. But the point here is not to rip on state government. Frankly, lawmakers make it too easy.
The point is that we are desperately concerned for the future of our state. Late-session, backroom deals, deceptive numbers and special-interest power politics are toxic ingredients for financial disaster.
This is not about winning or losing a political game, it is about the survival of the state of California as we know it. Many tell us it is too big to fail. Hmm ... where have we heard that before?