Fisher: California budget: A question of values

The Burlingame City Council took an unusual approach to closing its $2.9 million budget gap last week. Faced with closing the Easton branch library, a 67-year-old neighborhood treasure known for its extensive children’s book collection and twice-weekly story hours, the council offered residents this deal:

Want your library to stay open? Fine. Just come up with $70,000 in private donations.

By the end of the meeting, library supporters, including well-heeled residents of nearby Hillsborough, had pledged $4,500 and were confident they could raise the rest.

Welcome to California in the post-socialistic era. Basic services that we once expected government to provide to all of us, regardless of our ability to pay, are increasingly available only to those who can afford them. Basics like food, shelter, child care, a quality education and even libraries.

Read through Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revised state budget proposal and you’ll see what I mean. With a $19 billion gap to close, obviously the governor had tough choices to make. But there was a pattern to his choices. He chose to eliminate welfare altogether and cut child care for low-income families, in-home supportive services, Medi-Cal and mental health. Programs established to help the neediest among us: the poor, the sick, the elderly.

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