3/13/2008

The Governor of California's Response

My e-mail to the Governor on the predicement with my local school and the fact that a number of great teachers will lose their jobs got this response. In the interest of fairness, I have noted it here. It is a non-response. To me, it reminds of the Governor's films where he is the hero that kills off everyone and ends up surviving. He claims he has done a lot...yet we are in the predicement we are in. What a sad state of affairs indeed....

Thank you for writing to me about funding for California's K-12 schools. I appreciate hearing from constituents like you who care about the education of our children.

California is blessed with one of the world's most dynamic and diverse economies, but when it comes to the state budget process, we are highly dysfunctional. The combination of an economic slowdown and autopilot state spending formulas has created the budget shortfall we face today. Based on the budget I released in January, the deficit could grow to an estimated $14.5 billion by July 2009 - if we fail to act.

We must find a better way to connect spending to revenues, just like every family and business in the state must do. If less money comes in, we must also spend less. But right now, that is not happening. Although we project modest revenue growth during the next year - despite a weakened housing market and the subprime mortgage crisis - automatic formulas would increase spending by 7.3-percent, which is $7.6 billion.

That is simply unsustainable. Since I took office in 2003, I have tried twice to impose permanent stability, predictability and discipline on the budget process, but my efforts did not succeed. Permanent spending obligations have left California's finances fundamentally out of balance and sealed the fate of future budgets. To combat this crisis, I have proposed 10-percent reductions in nearly every General Fund program from their projected 2008-09 funding levels. I took an across-the-board approach to make these difficult decisions as fair as possible.

My proposed budget for 2008-09 suspends Proposition 98, eliminates the anticipated $3 billion increase and reduces funding by $1 billion from current levels. Even during this difficult time, K-12 schools will still receive $68.5 billion in total funding and $11,626 in per-pupil spending next year. In addition, I am proposing that school districts be granted greater flexibility to use the funds they receive from Sacramento to meet their specific needs. This added local control is especially important during these difficult budget times.

Our budget problems should not stop our efforts to improve our schools. We have identified several districts that have persistently failed to educate children, and California will be the first state to use its powers given to us under the No Child Left Behind Act to turn these districts around. We will be working with Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, teachers, administrators, parents and other elected officials to make these districts models of reform. We must act on behalf of the children now - we can't wait any longer.

I know that talking about fiscal responsibility sounds cold when you have a representative for children or the elderly or disabled sitting across from you. It's one of the worst things about being Governor. But what I find most troubling is the way we treat those who need our help the most. Their funding is like a roller coaster ride, and they never know how much they'll receive from one year to the next. The current system leaves us with no choice, but we do have a choice in the future.

That's why I have proposed a Budget Stabilization Act to fix the budget mess. Under my reforms, Sacramento wouldn't be able to spend all the money in good years. Instead, we would set a portion aside to stabilize the budget in down years. If a deficit develops during the year, my plan would automatically trigger lower funding levels already agreed upon by the Legislature so we don't have to scramble to close billion-dollar gaps. Had this system been in place the past decade, we would not be facing a $14.5 billion deficit, and we wouldn't be making these difficult decisions about where to cut.

I am committed to working with the Legislature and the people of our state to pass the best budget we can - and turn today's temporary problem into a permanent victory for all Californians.

Sincerely,



Arnold Schwarzenegger
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