Cutting the budget for real is too hard. But making symbolic cuts that produce tiny savings but garner big press coverage is easy – and can be fun.

Now that the Brown administration has gone after employee cell phones and the cars and swag, the low-hanging symbolic fruit is hard. And with deadlines for getting a June special election upon, the Brown administration may have to accelerate symbolic cuts. A glimpse of what the future could be.

March 3 – An executive order requires all state departments must do all of their shopping at Costco. "If you can’t buy it at Costco or make it from something you buy at Costco, you shouldn’t be doing it," the governor said.

March 4 – An executive order requires anyone who still has a state car is required not to fill the gas tank all the way and to use the accelerator only when necessary to conserve as much gas as possible. State legislators are exempt, but reporters haunt the hallways to press them on whether they have full tanks.

March 5 – With Republicans still balking at temporary tax extensions, a desperate Brown demands that all state department rinse, let dry, and re-use all unstained paper towels instead of throwing them away. "Every bit of paper counts," the governor says.
March 6 – Internet service contracts for state offices are canceled. "If you need to get on line, use your home connection," an administration spokeswoman said. "It’s probably faster anyway.

March 7 – Even in the midst of a later winter heat wave, the administration orders that all heat and air conditioning in state buildings remain off. "It’s important to experience the same climatic conditions as the people we serve," said the governor. "And this shows Californians that all of us in Sacramento are sweating to save money."

March 8 – The DMV, citing the spirit of frugality by the governor, announces it will no longer give the written driving – and instead will quiz wannabe drivers orally – to save on paper and printing costs.

March 9 – All toilet paper in state buildings must be one-ply.

March 10 – Apologizing for a previous cost saving effort that "didn’t go far enough," Brown says that all toilet paper will be removed from state buildings. "Workers have loads of this stuff at this home. They should bring their own," said the governor. "I know I do."

March 11 – Emergency legislation bars football teams representing California’s public colleges and universities from purchasing, much less wearing, helmets or pads. Legislative leaders said that, in addition to the up-front financial savings, the legislation would produce less in the way of medical costs as players refrain from using their helmets to tackle on the field.

March 12 – The state school board, acting at Gov. Brown’s urging, bans the purchase of all textbooks at all levels of education. "This is what Google books is for," says a state board member.

March 13 – Under heavy pressure from the governor’s office, the governing bodies of the University of California and California State University systems fire all maintenance and cleaning workers for buildings and suggest that faculty and students handle these chores themselves.

Asked whether students might flee filthy buildings, Brown replied happily: "They should be out in the hills."*

*Brown actually said these words during his first governorship when he opposed an expensive new student union at Sonoma State. "The students don’t need it… They should be out in the hills."