The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

I can has budget?

Friday 20 February 2009 at 1:45 am

Just under 24 hours ago, sense prevailed over enough of California’s governing body that they finally agreed to pass the state budget (eight months late!) … thus allowing staff to continue working, tax returns to be paid, roads to be maintained, colleges to stop turning away students, and other generally useful activities to happen.

Apparently the local Republicans are so insistent on not raising taxes that they refused to vote for an emergency bill, without which the state was literally days away from going broke. So strong are their convictions that the last member to change his vote fears a backlash, and the first was dumped as leader — yet for all the bickering, the Republicans failed to present a workable alternative. Months ago, they proposed $20-odd billion in spending cuts, but the state was hit so hard by the financial crisis that that’s now barely half the deficit. (Today’s compromise combined $15 bn of cuts with $24 bn in taxes and debt.)

Lest this make the Republicans sound like the villians, I should point out that California’s Democrats are far from blameless — they refused to cut back on spending for months at the beginning of the dispute, and were largely responsible for getting the state into this mess in the first place.

And this is all apart from the practically Byzantine rules of California’s political system — rules that require a supermajority to approve spending (the same two-thirds approval needed to change the constitution), or rules that require a full-blown referendum for pretty much any tax change (and thus any big new spending).

I seriously wonder how anything happens around here, what with the state’s leadership caring so little for its welfare …


Fail!, Facebook, and pillows …?

Thursday 19 February 2009 at 10:55 pm

A few anecdotes before the more serious political post to follow:

San Francisco Pillow Fight 2009!

  • The Valentine’s Day pillow fight was fun!
  • My favourite quote from last night’s FAILparty (at a surprisingly cosy bar hidden behind SF’s Federal Building): “I love how the Internet has made ‘fail’ a noun, but I’m sad for ‘ure’. I feel like we should throw a ‘ure’ party, to mourn its loss.”
  • Tonight’s Facebook developer event was cool for explaining how the news feed will become first-person and more about sharing, but also because Mark Zuckerburg dropped by to say hi to everyone …!
  • And okay, I couldn’t resist some politics. I suppose it was necessary for the US to pass an enormous bailout bill, right after Australia’s parliament enacted our own mini-version, but even though both went through with amazing speed I’m surprised at how much party bickering there still was (in both cases). In WA, for instance, observe how the Premier supported the plan at first, only to fall in with his party and question it two days later!