The 15-minute California budget solution
I balanced the budget.
In a completely bipartisan way.
In 15 minutes.
In fact, I produced a $3.2-billion surplus.
Where do I go to sign up to be governor?
The Times has been offering a handy program, the California Budget Balancer, on its website for weeks. It's simple. It's fun. It's for the politician in all of us.
You start with K-12 education funding. I clicked on the full funding option because, well, I have two boys in school and if I’m to have any hope of getting rid of them, they’ve got to graduate.
After that, I unleashed my inner Republican. My motto: Never let an opportunity to cut spending go to waste. Welfare -- cut it all. In home services -- cut. Grants to the elderly and disabled -- gone. The UC budget? Cut to the bone. Close those state parks. Ditto the community college system -- why prepare more kids for four-year schools when the four-year schools won't have enough money even for the kids who get in right out of high school?
OK, you'd think I'd have the budget balanced with my Jack the Ripper impersonation. I mean, I even put every prisoner I could back on the streets. But no, I was out of buttons -- and still $11 billion in the red.
Time for a little taxation, Democratic style!
Now, I like to drive, so I’m not touching the gas tax. And hey, I’m taxed to death already, so those temporary tax increases – sorry, temporary means temporary.
I guess that once you're in a Republican mood, it's a hard habit to break. Like smoking.
Speaking of which, there are the cigarette and alcohol taxes. I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke. Max tax time, baby!
And I'm not now, and probably never will be, a high-wage earner, so in my best "pitchforks at the gates of the chateau" mood, it's tax the rich time. (Although I reserve the right to rescind this, pending the results of the upcoming SuperLotto drawing.)
Then there's the oil extraction tax -- are you kidding me? As that guy says day after day after day on the radio, it's the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind.
I don't know anything about business taxes, but everyone says that in a recession, to raise taxes on business is a job killer. I work, and I want to keep working, so I'm leaving that one alone.
It's also a no on taxing Social Security -- I've got older relatives, and no way would I risk having them come live with me.
Finally, there are the speeding cameras. Anyone who thinks that's a good idea should be marched to the border and thrown out of the state (my wife included!). No true Californian would ever give up their God-given right to speed (actually, it's probably in the state Constitution somewhere). And if I could, like Ronald Reagan, I'd "tear down those red light cameras, Mr. Policeman!" but sadly there's no button for that.
And there you go. Simple, quick -- a bunch of draconian cuts, a few taxes and presto! A balanced budget and a rainy-day fund (here's to you, Arnold, whatever beach you're vacationing on this week).
Some commenters on The Times’ discussion board have lamented the lack of an "illegal immigrant" button, as if that would cure our budget woes. But not me.
I look at it this way: After my proposals are put in place, who will want to live in California, legally or illegally?
Wait, did I just solve another problem?
Someone get me the president.
Photo: California Gov. Jerry Brown points to a chart as he explains his approach to dealing with an estimated $25.4 billion state budget deficit. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo