Recession Mama

{June 7, 2009}   How California’s State Budget is Just Like Your Household Finances

By Katy

California coastline

California coastline

By now, you all know that I live in Southern California, and although my heart will always be in Texas (where I grew up) and my head is always in New York (where I went to school and learned to dream big)…California is now home (for almost 10 years now!). It’s an amazing place with incredible ocean views, miles of beaches, mountains, and of course, great weather. But there are two things I do not like about this enormous state — traffic and the annual fight over the budget. I am not going to even get into the traffic situation, since this site isn’t called why-the-heck-isn’ But I am going to discuss the state budget. Now, indulge me. I am not delving into politics. The annual fight in California over the budget isn’t even a left-right issue anymore. Currently, we have the govern-ator, and he’s a so-called “Republican.” Prior to Arnold Schwarzenegger, we had Gray Davis, a so-called Democrat. And nothing has changed when it comes to the budget because it can’t be passed with a simple majority. Instead, there is a 2/3rds vote requirement in order to pass the budget. 2/3rds! When have you seen politicians agree on anything? Only two other states have a 2/3rds majority rule. No wonder there is a financial crisis every year around passing the state budget. Even when we were not in a recession, California legislators have had difficulties passing a budget.

That’s an MSNBC report and interview with California’s Lt. Governor John Garamendi. He is a Democrat, and we all know MSNBC leans a little left…just like the Fox leans a lot right. But you can get somewhat of an idea of what I’m talking about. I mean California is in BIG trouble. The state is near bankruptcy, and they’ve even suspended payment on some people’s tax returns! Now, if that was me, and I wasn’t getting paid back what I was owed…I’d be on the doorstep of my legislator and demanding that money! I’m also disappointed at what the Governor is talking about cutting — money for education, health care, and programs for people well below the poverty line. He’s also proposed shutting down 220 state parks. I know that parks seem frivolous…but for people who do not have much…parks are free entertainment! Parks are places where any child can play, regardless of their parents’ incomes. And do you know how much park rangers make? Maybe the legislators who are making these decisions should really lower their salaries to what park rangers make, and perhaps that could help alleviate some of our budget shortfalls.

But here’s the real reason why I’m writing all of this: I think the way some politicians (left, right, and center) are dealing with California’s state budget is exactly how most people have dealt with their household finances. So if I want change in the government, I need to change the way my own finances are being handled, right? We all know that most couples fight about money. How many times have you and a significant other started out balancing a checkbook and ended it with a fight? And how many times have you just given up or decided that just one person should handle the household finances? Well, that’s what’s happening all over, and nowhere is it more apparent than in California. I think it’s important for there to be a CEO, or CFO, in a household. Carla mentions this idea in a previous post. One person should be the one to be in charge of the ins and the outs of cash flow, balancing the checkbook, and even paying the bills. I guess the lawmaker equivalent would be a state comptroller. But I do think it’s important for everyone in the household to know what is going on…complete transparency…from parents to children…everyone should know about how major financial decisions are being made and how that affects each member of the household. This way, no one can say they didn’t know. It also would help everyone to work together on a common goal — whether that’s saving up for a house, car, or college education. It would also make me think twice before I bought something because my money is not just my money anymore. Instead, it now belongs to the entire family, and everyone is counting on that money for the roof over their heads, for the food on the table, and for the gas in the car that we drive in the traffic filled streets of Los Angeles.

Looks pretty here, but it's not pretty when you're sitting in traffic.

Looks pretty here, but it's not pretty when you're sitting in traffic.


recessionmama says:

From Heather: Let’s hope we all do a better job of handling our money than California. What a mess. It’s sad when people and states cut back on extras that actually enrich and help improve the quality of life. Parks are important! They help people connect. Education is important! I have a lawyer friend who is rethinking her career so she can help pay for her daughter’s private school education. She’s getting her teacher certification so she can get a teaching job and get a huge discount on tuition. She says her desire to be a high powered attorney went out the door when she had kids. The hours are too long and she cannot always take off from work when the kids are sick or have special events. She’s making sacrifices so her kids can get a great education. That’s more important than a fancy vacation, new clothes and a big house.

recessionmama says:

Yes! So true! The state should figure out what are our priorities, just like we all have to do every day.

Carla says:

Katy, first of all, Texas misses you! Come back to visit! And second, you make a really great point that a marriage/partnership needs to have clear cut chores up to and including who handles money. Married almost 6 years, we have flipped duties a few times bc of our situations, like me working FT and having a baby, back in the day.

As for the Cali budget…I have my thoughts on that as well, and it has to do with a topic that’s better left off this one!

recessionmama says:

I definitely want to visit. 🙂

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