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California: Too Big to Fail?
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gestures as he discusses this revised state budget proposal for the coming fiscal year during a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, May 14, 2009. Schwarzenegger called for laying off thousands of state employees and slashing billions from education to deal with a projected budget deficit that could go as high as $21.3 billion if voters reject the budget-related measures on next weeks special election ballot.(AP)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger discusses the revised state budget proposal for the coming fiscal year during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, May 14, 2009. (AP)

When it comes to American states, California has long been number one on many fronts. Now, it’s number one in fiscal crisis.

Like many states in the economic bust, California’s spending has drastically outstripped its income. It has the highest sales tax in the nation and some of the country’s highest state income taxes: 10.5 percent at a million dollars.

But it’s also staring at a $21 billion deficit, and its voters just said no to higher taxes. It may have to empty prisons. Close schools. And it’s lining up for a federal bailout.

This hour, On Point: California, virtually bankrupt — and what comes next.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Joining us from Culver City, Calif., is Joe Matthews, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, for which he writes the Blockbuster Democracy blog. A fourth-generation Californian, he’s a contributing writer for the Opinion pages of the Los Angeles Times and a former reporter at the paper. He’s the author of “The People’s Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy.”

From Northridge, Calif., we’re joined by Sandy Banks, longtime reporter, editor, and now columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

And from Sacramento we’re joined by Bill Lockyer, California state treasurer. A Democrat, he served as attorney general of California from 1999 to 2006, and prior to that served 25 years in the state legislature.

More links:

The Los Angeles Times today reports that California is bracing for “brutal budget cuts.”  In an analysis piece yesterday, the Times’ Michael Finnegan wrote that voters share the blame for the state’s dysfunction.

In today’s Washington Post, columnist George Will writes of “the coming California bailout,” and notes approvingly that the Orange County Register editorialized against all six of the ballot measures voted upon this week.

In his latest LA Times opinion piece, “A vote for more votes in California,” our guest Joe Matthews argues for electoral reform in the state.

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