Governor Schwarzenegger addressed the legislature Tuesday on the state's remaining $24 billion deficit. They are faced with the gap because the budget lawmakers approved three months ago did not sufficiently tackle the state's $52 billion total debt.
The governor spoke mostly about cuts to education, health care and prisons. He also briefly addressed the need to stretch taxpayer dollars and increase the state's revenue, which has dropped by 27 percent in the last year.
While our local governments are looking at ways to balance their own budgets, the governor's proposal threatens to throw an unwelcome challenge at local leaders who may soon be asked to reach into their general funds to help the state get out of debt.
Paying off California's debt also may mean selling off state properties, including the Del Mar Fairgrounds, since the governor feels that the state "should not be in the real estate business."
It could also mean closing some state parks, including Torrey Pines Beach and Natural Reserve.
Schwarzenegger said, " … we cannot make this budget just about cuts. There are also some great opportunities for structural reform." He specifically noted the relationship between the state and local governments.
We all value the need for well-funded schools, a thriving health care system and a strong, reliable public safety system, and love having access to natural wonders. But when it comes to restructuring in terms of taxes and revenue sources, we had our say when we voted against the ideas on the May ballot.
Eventually something has to give.
The transformation of the state's government brought on by this budget crisis is going to negatively impact everyone in some way. But it also presents an opportunity for the state's citizens to take part in remodeling California.
We should let the mistakes made in Sacramento be a lesson to our local governments. Now is an excellent time to express your desires about how they "should" or "shouldn't" be doing things in Sacramento.
Should the state sell its real estate? Should the Del Mar Unions School District close a campus or cut its extended studies programs? Should local governments become more instrumental in providing services to their residents? If so, how should those services be delivered?
While the budget crisis strips us of the resources we've come to expect, it may be the right time for a transformation toward self-governance. While you're voice may seem lost in a sea at the state level, many local residents deeply appreciate the impact they can have locally.
One place to start is at the 22nd District Agricultural Association's Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in the Surfside Race Place building at the Fairgrounds.
Anyone with an opinion about the governor's proposal to sell the Del Mar Fairgrounds is encouraged to attend and asked to arrive between 12:30 and 1:15 p.m. to register to speak.