CA Budget, Solving Any Problems?

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Stephanie Spearman
Staff Writer

     After two years in a downward economic spiral, Californians are hoping that next year’s state budget will alleviate some of the overbearing financial strain.

     “Some debt is ok,” said Barbara Halliday, Hayward Council Member. “You take a long term debt that you feel comfortable you can take on.”

     Halliday feels that California has gone past a healthy amount of debt and needs to balance its budget better by matching what revenue is coming in with what governmental services it puts out.

      “You can’t just borrow everything on a credit card,” she added.

     America’s current recession has taken its toll on California in many ways, according to David Baggins, Chair of the Political Science Department for Cal State East Bay (CSUEB).

      “California’s financial woes are multifaceted,” said Baggins. “Our delegation, unlike some states, has not tried hard to get money for the state. So we are the donor state, money goes to Washington but largely does not come back.”

     The state of California has the third highest unemployment rate in the country with 12.6 percent jobless, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report for April 2010. The national unemployment rate is 9.7 percent according to the same report.

     With the need for their services doubling in the last year, Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB) spokesman Brian Higgins has said that the food bank will sometimes have to “re-divide bags to make sure no one gets turned away.” The ACCFB serves 49,000 Bay Area residents alone.

     Schools statewide have taken a hit from the sliding economy. Over 10,000 teachers have been laid off from state elementary schools in the past two years; forcing the number of students per classroom to balloon from 25 to 40. Students are getting less individualized attention and teachers are fighting to keep their jobs.

     Natalie Antes, a 2009 CSUEB graduate with a teaching degree, has had trouble finding a job.

     “I finally got a long term substitute job at a private school,” said Antes. “It may not be permanent but I’m happy to be teaching. It’s what I love to do.”

     Students within the California State University system feel especially deprived of state services which are meant to aiding them in receiving a quality education.

      Demonstrations to stop budget cuts to higher education have taken place consistently over the last few months. March 4 marked a date of action state wide; April 26, students from all CSU campuses bonded together to lobby for more money for higher education.

     CSUEB alone fired 140 faculty and staff this year increasing classroom size and decreasing the availability of certain classes.

     Anibal Hurtado, an art major at CSUEB, was wait-listed for all of his major courses last quarter and had to do independent study to keep the full-time students status.

     “I feel like I’m paying money for empty units that will have no effect in my future career,” said Hurtado.

     He feels that some bad legislation has led to this downfall in education.

     “California had one of the best school systems in the country, now we rank somewhere between 48th and 49th,” he added.

     It seemed as though the Governor was listening because soon thereafter Schwarzenegger promised an additional $375 million to be set aside in the 2010-2011 fiscal year budget for higher education.

     But where is that money coming from? With the state’s poor finances, tough choices must be made and priorities have to be set, said Halliday. “Education should be a priority.”

     Even if it means a different program may have to suffer. Halliday was clearly torn at the idea of taking something away that may be needed, but still feels that education is very important.

     “There aren’t any easy choices to be made these days,” added Halliday.

     “That’s the heart of politics,” said Baggins, “deciding what you value more.”

     When asked if he would still support money allocated for higher education even if it meant a cut to say, rehabilitation programs in California, Hurtado also appeared to weigh what he valued more.

     “Honestly no,” said Hurtado. “I personally would not be happy.”

     “Sometimes”, says Baggins, “cut backs have to happen.”

     “All spending is at the potential cost to other spending,” he said.

     These sacrifices and tough decisions seem exaggerated with the bad economy.

     “We’ve been on kind of a spending spree,” Halliday said about the state. “Right now, we need to use the resources we have as effectively as possible.”

     For Hurtado, giving up human service programs to fund education is tough but he still feels that education is a high priority.

     “Take education away and people lose their voice,” said Hurtado. “Because of these cuts, our government is showing us that we all are expendable.”

     Whether the government finds its people expendable or not does not take away from the fact that the “economy is in a funk,” as Halliday put it.

     “We’re paying now for what we’re promising in the future,” added Halliday.

      Effectively using the state’s money, she said, is one way to ensure a healthy budget for the future.

     But is a healthy budget realistic for California? Residents all over the state mirror the grim outlook Hurtado’s has of the future.

     “I can’t predict the future,” declared Baggins, “but if I had to guess, I think California is a place of beauty, creativity and diversity. So yes, it will prosper again.”