As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Hope There's Fresh Powder, Governor

Sources say that Gov. Schwarzenegger is spending the day in Idaho. Now, he normally visits Idaho to ski in Sun Valley, so I'd have to assume that's the reason for this trip. But we're in the midst of secret budget negotiations, and right when a deal is nearing, the Governor leaves for the ski lifts and the hot cocoa?

Here are some images of Californians who won't be making the trip out to Sun Valley now or probably any time in the future. First, the jobless who will be lucky just to receive their benefits:

California not only has the nation's third highest unemployment rate but its Unemployment Insurance Fund has taken a bigger beating than any other state, a new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures indicates.

California's UIF dropped from $639.2 million to just $71.8 million during 2008 as unemployment soared to about 1.5 million workers, forcing it to join six other states in borrowing money from the federal government to keep the checks rolling out to the jobless.

Then there are the state employees, who got their own vacation last Friday, albeit one of the "forced and unpaid" variety, and the effect on the cities that serve them was immediate and negative:

An unpaid holiday for its largest employer was the last thing Sacramento needed Friday.

Already suffering under 8.7 percent unemployment, the region endured its first day of state-worker furloughs. Most state offices stayed closed, while an appeals court denied a last-ditch union petition to block the furloughs.

The effect was immediate. Traffic was light through much of downtown and midtown Sacramento, where tens of thousands of employees normally congregate, and business was down at numerous restaurants and stores.

"It's tough to be a small business downtown, and for them to take out a Friday," said Ryan Rose, manager at Zocalo restaurant east of the Capitol. Friday is usually his busiest day for lunch, and though business was better than he feared, it was lighter than usual.

And then there are those serviced by county governments, who are seeing those services vanish due to the delay in payments from the Controller because of the cash crisis.

What exactly is the controller withholding from counties?

The controller is getting ready to delay the state's February payment to counties for social service programs. Meanwhile, the Schwarzenegger administration is proposing to defer payments for up to six more months as part of a new state budget agreement.

How much money are we talking about?

The state controller is looking to delay $172 million in payments to counties for February, according to the California State Association of Counties.

What is that money for?

That money is for social service programs like foster care, food stamps, child welfare, adoption programs, adult protective services and more.

What happens in March if counties don't get their state payments this month?

It depends on the county, but many will not be able to cover the cost of state- mandated social service programs. Sacramento County spent most of its reserves in recent years and doesn't have enough to pick up the tab.

With the state at rock bottom and some kind of deal urgently needed, it's curious that the very man who railed against lawmakers for dawdling and dithering and leaving the state during budget negotiations for years is doing the EXACT SAME THING himself.

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