As a relatively new Californian, I’m closely following the negotiations to pass a budget for the state. It’s understandably the lead story for most news media here, but there are some big holes in the information I’m getting.
There’s great blow-by-blow coverage if you know where to look. Calitics, “a progressive open source news organization for California politics”, is a must-read. The Sacramento Bee seems to do a better job than my sorry local, The San Francisco Chronicle, or the LA Times. The SacBee is the only one that actually has a landing page for budget news. Seems obvious.
But here’s what I want and can’t find. I’d like a basic chart of expenditures and revenues, revised as the plan morphs with political horse-trading. The state’s own finance department has a half-good budget site where you can study the governor’s budget proposals — all on PDFs, blech. The LA Times created an interactive budget balancer a few weeks ago so readers could understand the difficult trade-offs. But no one seems to be showing me what I want to know as the news happens.
Why does this matter? Unless you’re really into the nitty-gritty of the budget, and most of us aren’t, how can you put a statement like $1.2 billion will be cut from prisons into context? Or that education will be cut $6b and higher education a further $2.8 billion. $6b from what? No one seems to think that matters.