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Is The Federal Or State Budget Worse?

It’s hard to tell which budget mess looks worse right now: the federal government, which could shut down Friday night -- or California, which faces the prospect of an all-cuts budget. But the state may seek out this dubious honor.

Meantime, California’s Department of Finance said the state probably wouldn’t feel much impact from a federal government shutdown, as long as it stays relatively brief.

It’s a close call, according to UC Berkeley Political Science Professor Bruce Cain. He’s based in Washington but studies the federal and state governments.

“I think, still, California noses out the Washington scene, but that gap gets narrower and narrower with every passing hour,” Cain said.

He also said an all-cuts budget in California would have a far greater impact than the proposed federal cuts, which make up only a fraction of the overall budget. And while the feds can keep borrowing money, the state must approve a balanced budget. But according to Cain, the politics of the two debates are nearly identical.

“Sometimes I feel like you get the whole crisis in stereo,” Cain said. “If you listen, you hear the same sounds coming from Washington that you have in California.”

And from a political perspective, he said, the question of which is worse ends in a tie.

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