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Can You Fix California’s Budget?

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It may sound like a Saturday Night Live skit, but an organization is asking for your help with assistance budgeting. Next10 has a fairly easy to understand budget calculator simulator that lets you do just that. You have a choice about 4 or 5 questions in much of the areas that impact the government's budget. You have choices like adjusting the spending on Education, Health Care, Jobs, Environment, Criminal Justice, etc. You then have to make some tough choices on revenues like income tax, sales tax, corporate taxes, etc. Even if you aren't from California, it's very educational (although somewhat depressing) to play a big game of Would You Rather...? It only takes 5-10 minutes.

I gave the simulator a shot and I almost reduced the state deficit in half, while increasing K-12 education to the national levels. In order to do that I turned the state into a toxic waste dump and drove out every corporation with raised taxes. I think I also had to raise the sales tax from 9.25% (in my county at least) to around 78%. Oh and I had to let all the criminals go free. Maybe the companies that make bars for windows will stick around... not that anyone can afford them with the sales tax.

I'm making a big joke of the situation in California, but it's no laughing matter. The state has some serious issues and people are going to be negatively affected (they already are). I need to commend Next10. I've always been a fan of crowdsourcing a solution and while that would be nice, the education that Next10 is giving Californians is a step in the right direction.

Did you try the simulator? Tell me the choices you made in the comments below...

Last updated on March 4, 2016.

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12 Responses to “Can You Fix California’s Budget?”

  1. Spending – 58.2B
    Revenue – 50.4

    I increased K-12 spending and also increased your car registration fees and gasoline tax :)

    The Casual Observer (my web magazine) has an interview with Lazy Man today:


  2. P.B. says:

    I reduced K-12, health care and human services spending. The only tax I accepted was to keep the current raise in the sales tax. I came up -9.5B in balancing the budget. This is a neat exercise, but it does not go far enough with things like re-doing contracts with state workers, eliminating waste in the schools, reducing salaries of office holders/state workers and layoffs. Why should state government not have to layoff people to help make ends meet? Many companies, including the one I work for are doing just that.

  3. Hi Lazy Man,

    The problem is that these simulators do not allow us to dig into the real heart of the problem, which is the overinflated salaries and defined benefit plans for state employees.

    My simulation ended up with a negative budget. I don’t agree with raising taxes; the only tax “increase” I voted for in this sim was to change the mortgage interest deduction to a tax credit. (I don’t believe the government should encourage people to own homes.)

    I also voted for reducing property taxes by 50% but reassessing every year, as most other states do, to encourage people to be more fluid instead of remaining in the same house for years. A more fluid economy means people move to get a job they want instead of being “stuck” due to their house and accepting a job that is less productive.

    Some of the things I would do include going to court (and declaring bankruptcy if necessary) to get defined benefit pension plans down to the national level (or even below it.) I’d cut salaries for 100% of state employees, including teachers. I would eliminate layers of middle management in education and cut anyone’s salary who made over $100,000 a year (which is a MIND-BOGGLING number of folks from CSU/UC to police officers to State employees!) by 20% this year and another 10% next year.

    I’d then take a hatchet to state programs, raising fees for state parks, dismantling most of the state’s health care system, etc. And I’d fire whoever was in charge of the idiot malinvestments made over at CalPERS.

    I would do all of this with a goal to lower corporate taxes so that California is in the bottom third of corporate taxes charged among the 50 states (I think we’d have to lower by about 50%), thus incentivizing businesses to stay in the state. I would then proceed to systematically lower the sales and income tax as savings were reaped from my other cuts, until each was at 5% or less.

    Finally, I would instate a law that prevented the asinine propositions sponsored by special interest groups from appearing on the ballot. Since Californians can’t seem to vote NO for these damn things, I don’t want them on the ballot to begin with.

    I would, of course, be the most unpopular Governor in the history of California. But in the long term, the state would thrive. Oh, and I wouldn’t worry about re-election. I would simply cut as much as I could, and lower taxes as much as I could, during my first term. My ego is less important than the health of this state!


  4. Amphritrite says:

    Interestingly enough, I tried several different budgets, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to get it to zero. Looks like they have too much going on that has to be funded :(

  5. Dave C says:

    I can fix California’s budget crisis with near immediacy. Legalize it (and regulate). Problem solved.
    /oh teh noes, the devil’s weed!

  6. Nicolas Lutz says:

    Funny but the effects of education and health spending might have an impact in more than 5 years, which the simulator does not provide for (Sadly). Reading the proposed arguments, I do not agree that it is as black or white.

  7. Dan says:

    Nice attempt, but far from reality. The corporate tax cuts and individual income tax cuts actually increase revenue to the state not decrease it.

    Leave the property taxes alone, in case you haven’t figured it out we live in an incredibly liberal state. Property taxes would be as high or higher here than they are in NJ.

    Education spending does not tell even a splinter of the story, the amount of administration is ridiculous. I don’t have the actual figure but it’s something like 25 cents of every dollar actually makes it to the class room.

    State jobs need to be eliminated fast and furiously.

    This calculator wants to resolve the budget in one fell swoop, which will only serve to stave off the wrecking ball for another year. We need to make fundamental changes to the system so that we aren’t funding sea otter research and the Colorado River Basin Administration at the expense of our police and fire fighters.

    There is so much more that can be done that is not included in the calculator.

    Until we start voting out the current cast of characters we can’t possibly think that any budget that they come up with will last for more than a couple years.

    Stop the spending. A cut in the rate of growth is not a cut, it’s a decrease in the increase of funding.

    It’s not a revenue problem, it’s a spending problem.

  8. Drew says:

    @Erica – Hello from a fellow Hoosier and love your site. I agree with all of your points, but would add one more thing. Make the major movie studios, music industry, etc. follow generally approved accounting practices. You cannot tell me the movie that raked in the most money of all time (Titanic) made no money for that company because they pre-paid the retirement benefits of a “Grip” among other things. The entire entertainment industry is a major reason why the state is broke (among other things).

    The other thing you can do, which I completely advocate. Revoke all income taxes. Then put the money as a use tax on purchased items (flat tax, use tax, what ever). You never have to worry about individual tax fraud (corporate now), your revenue would be constant, you don’t have to worry about illegals because when they buy their TV they pay their tax, no tax refunds, and finally you can limit the number of state employees that are required to process tax info.

    If these two things are done, along with your other plans, the state would be right as rain in a few years.

  9. Lottery.

    Announce a one time lottery prize of $300 billion.

    Sell tickets for $100.

    Obviously, everyone in the world will want one. 6 billion tickets @ $100 = $600B

    Profit is a shade under $300 billion due to other expenses (advertising, printing, corruption).

    Collect tax revenue on the winnings.

    Seriously, why didn’t the legislature think of this?

  10. Ari says:

    I would suggest the following(which were not provided as choices):

    Take all pedofiles/violent sex offenders/murders- shoot them and compost their remains to fertilize crops. The remaining prisoners can work on a merit system policing themselves in a drug-free environment. They can work at growing their own food, as water will be provided. If they object, then they can be compost too. Former Prison Guards can be shifted to the private/public sector.

    Money saved should be around 10 billion, 1/2 of which can go to the public schools thru K12, and the other half used as grant money to high achieving drug-free students in those same public schools for higher education.

    Here’s an idea – STOP FUNDING MEDI-CAL and other social programs FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS OR THEIR CHILDREN. Babies born here can stay, but their parents have to go back. Fund citizens, naturalized or otherwise, and their children – Oh, the humanity!!! All medi-cal recipients undergo mandatory drug testing – those failing get booted off the program, and possibly arrested.

    Violent Gang activity is punished by death, after due process, of course, but within 30 days of the judgment on the 1st appeal. This gives them one chance to clear it up (When was the last time California got a conviction on a murder case?) Crime of any sort by illegal aliens gets them a one-way ticket to the homeland, and their families too!

    Divide public school kids based on their intellect and nothing else – The ADD ADHD or otherwise impaired ones should be in “special classes”. The unimpaired ones should be required to perform for reward, and the ditch digger types should also perform for reward in classes not slated for higher education. The Bell Curve is real, not a figment of a prejudiced mind. This is practically the natural law, but for whatever reason needs to pointed out to California education administrators and law makers.

    Oh, one more idea in response to an individual who has lots of ideas… property ownership separates Americans from the rest of the world’s citizens… we own more stuff, because, up to the last decade – we have been a productive and “contributing-to-society” type of people … encourage property ownership- real property, not personal prop as we have shifted to… Real Property is where wealth comes from … wealth for all of us – to have our personal cell phone, cable/sat tv, couch and opinion.

  11. Tammi says:

    See “Autism Home Healthcare Staffing Realities” on You Tube for an insight look at how hard families have to fight for obvious needs. Here’s a family that shows that they have a child who would cost state of California over 356,000 yr. PLUS (plus, meaning the basic cost of institutional care isn’t factoring in the 1:1 this autistic patient would need). This family is willing to KEEP the child at HOME, which saves the state over 200,000 a year, yet the state agency charged with duty to provide home health care under Olmstead Act and other laws, is actually FIGHTING this family, and telling them, “we aren’t equipped to help you….you should place your son in an institution until the budget cuts are over.” As if they will ever be over. What is so news worthy about this story/case, is that the FAMILY has managed to do what GOVERNMENT has FAILED to do: keep their high risk, costly child at HOME. Yet, despite the family doing the job government can’t do, the same government FIGHTS the family and tells them, “we can’t offer you more than 12,000 dollars a month in home health care services,” though the cost of OUT of home care costs would be around $33,000 month!. Now, that is clearly a REASON why California continues to be one of the states that just doesn’t understand how to SAVE money.
    Source: Basic cost for institutional care at Fairview Developmental Center is around 356,000 per year, NOT including 1:1 or 2:1 overtime costs paying extra nurses and staff at institution to care for the type of autistic person portrayed in this and other videos on you tube under cdfoakley and kgaccount. The cost to KEEP this type of autistic person at HOME is FAR less than what it would cost to place him OUT of home. Keep in mind, this person portrayed in videos is OVER 18, so family does NOT have to keep him at home. But they are willing. A rare case indeed, which is a case study in cost effective in home care vs. out of long term nursing care expenses. So the question remains, if California officials do NOT provide this family with needed in HOME supports (nursing assessments repeatedly assessed this case at 2:1) then the state will be paying FAR more than what they need to pay to KEEP the child at HOME. It’s RARE to find families that are WILLING to keep an autistic patient with this HIGH level of care at HOME. So instead of supporting this family, the state pushes them to place the child? How does that make economic sense?

  12. Mark says:

    I reduced the ridiculously high pensions and guarantees to state employees and moved to a 401K
    Funded education, funded colleges fully
    Levied taxes on the rich
    Levied taxes on luxury items (if you really want a coke or a beer pay extra for it)
    Reduced some programs
    Reduced some benefits
    Got rid of prop 13 (what were voters thinking? oh wait, they weren’t)

    Came up with a surplus of 5.2 billion. I think that a system where we collect a year’s worth of money… THEN spend it is the only real way to go.

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