California’s state legislative analyst just announced that the projected budget deficit has jumped another $1.5 billion to $16 billion for 2008-09.
Luckily, the governor issued an executive order yesterday to freeze state hiring and impose an immediate 1.5% reduction in all government agencies’ spending. At least someone’s taking this budget chaos seriously, right?
Perhaps, but there’s more ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ to the governor’s action. According to the Associated Press, Arnold waited until he’d made over 120 appointments at a cost of $5 million to the state in the last 40 days before announcing his hiring freeze, though we all knew the state was in financial straits well before Jan 10. The governor’s hires include 6 new members of his own staff, half of whom make over $110K a year.
The governor also called for a moratorium on nonessential travel throughout executive agencies, but it’s going to be hard for anyone to determine what he means by "nonessential." Arnold’s pricey travel around the world to promote California has been well-documented, and he’s argued that every one of these trips was crucial to his job as governor. Most of the money to pay for his travel came from undisclosed private donors, but taxpayers have always paid the bill for his security detail, and whatever staff he brings with him. A spokesman tells the Sacramento Bee that the gov has cancelled three planned overseas trips, but one of those (to Portugal) was postponed in the wake of the October wildfires, and a trip to India was cancelled because the governor wanted the ‘flexibility’ to call a special session on health care. Not sure what that has to do with the governor abiding by a travel ban. Furthermore, the gov is still headed to Ohio in March for the annual “Arnold Classic” bodybuilding competition. It’s pretty safe to assume that most of the $38 million that California spends on security every year (three times as much as during Gray Davis’s governorship) goes to watch our movie-star governor’s back. Wonder how many of those new $110K+ hires will get to tag along too, at taxpayer expense?