Last week, there was news of counties suing the state for their money. LA was even thinking of withholding sales tax revenue from the state. Yes, the counties were angry then. But, imagine what happens when they get IOUs in the mail:
California’s budget woes will sweep over the state’s 58 counties this week when they get promises instead of checks for $89 million in anticipated payments for welfare, food stamps and other services.
The move will be a devastating blow to the counties, which must serve more and more people looking for government help as the economy craters and jobs disappear, said Paul McIntosh, executive director of the California Association of Counties. (SF Chronicle 2/10/2009)
That’s all well and fine for governments to transfer bad checks amongst themselves, but how are the counties supposed to turn those slips of paper into actual money for services? How does that buy food for food stamp recipients, and how does that send out welfare checks.
Of course, this isn’t any sort of solution, but John Chiang really has no choice. You can’t send money that isn’t there, and we don’t have the federal government’s luxury of printing money.
There is some money for these types of services in the stimulus, or at least there was, but there is no telling what emerges from the conference committee. Either way, the state at this point is just paying their problems forward to the actual service providers, the counties.
There are no winners now, save those who laugh at our predicament. Those who want to see the collapse of our social safety net and the civilized and advanced society that we have built here have much to love. Those who are not quite so depraved are out of luck.