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How Would You Balance The State’s Budget?

— How would ordinary people eliminate the state’s $28 billion deficit and balance California’s budget?

KPBS News reporters took a crack at it using an ingenious web tool created by The Los Angeles Times. It’s called California Budget Balancer.

The California Budget Balancer allows people to try and balance the state's spending plan.
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Above: The California Budget Balancer allows people to try and balance the state's spending plan.

Reporters picking and choosing what to cut and what taxes to raise prompted a vigorous and amusing debate.

Some reporters took a no-holds-barred approach to gutting the budget and ended up with a nice surplus. Others found the process a bit more painful – having to choose cutting education over Medi-Cal services, for example.

Metro reporter Katie Orr decided to raise taxes “on everything…alcohol, cigarettes, gas. I’m all about taxes.” Though Orr stopped short of cutting health and human services because, “what if I get sick?”

Environment reporter Ed Joyce also chose to “tax the snot out of everything” in order to preserve most education and health and social-services funding.

“If people can’t afford to buy cigarettes, perhaps that reduces health care expenses in the future,” Joyce said, who ended up with a $13 billion dollar surplus based on his cost-cutting methods.

Reporter Kyla Calvert was able to produce a $1.5 billion surplus. She raised taxes, but also cut state payroll, released some prisoners, and eliminated funding for new Cal Grants.

Calvert, a Chicago native, also decided to cut Medi-Cal, which elicited this response from KPBS morning show producer Nick Stoffel, “Kyla, you are colder than a Chicago windstorm!”

Science and technology reporter Peggy Pico “cut education in half, except for the Cal Grants, because universities have already raised tuition and fees."

"I taxed everything except Social Security, because older people hardly get any money anyway. And I did all of that under 10 minutes. Why can’t our paid, elected officials do it?,” Pico exclaimed.

So take a moment and give it a try. Perhaps state leaders will follow your lead.

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