When you watch a California budget season, the best way to understand what you’re watching is as a game between three teams.
Those three teams represent the three major functions of the state: Educate, Medicate, and Incarcerate.
These days, this is really a two-team race, however. Because Team Incarcerate is in the penalty box, forced by the federal courts to reduce its number of players.
That leaves Team Educate and Team Medicate. And the contest is an interesting one.
Team Medicate has been the dominant force for many years. Health care has been growing costs, and the health part of the budget had been growing faster than the education part of the budget, despite cuts to some health and social programs. Throw in Obamacare, and you have to like the long-term prospects of Team Medicate.
But this budget, so far, looks like a rout for Team Educate. That team has Gov. Brown firmly on its side, for one thing—listen to the governor touting gains in school funding while sounding like a Republican as he talks about the costs of gains in Medi-Cal, a key player for Team Medicate. Plus, Team Educate has powerful teachers’ unions on its side, as well as Prop 98 and Prop 2, which was basically written by Team Educate’s front office.
How can you follow who is winning? It’s easy – whichever team is complaining the most to the public and refs is the losing team (and that loser is clearly Team Medicate so far, as you see Medi-Cal reimbursement rates in the news). But Team Educate starts from quite a deficit. And then there is its prima donna wide receiver, the UC system, which is tired after many years of taking funding cuts for the team. It wants to raise ticket prices.
Enjoy the budget games.