California’s famed redwood forests will have to close to visitors
The state of California is in crisis and time has almost run out. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor, has spent this week haggling with state legislators to agree cuts to basic services in one of the world’s largest economies.
The state’s top finance officials warned that unless an emergency austerity plan is agreed by Monday – and there is little chance that it will be – they will not be able to borrow the billions of dollars needed to keep the current government functioning. If California was a company, it would have gone bust months ago.
The breadth and depth of Mr Schwarzenegger’s cuts are unprecedented and no one in the state, not even its dozens of billionaires, will be unaffected. His more radical proposals include wiping billions of dollars from the education budget, with the school year shortened and larger classes.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of police and firemen will be laid off, and state employees who keep their jobs face pay cuts of at least 10 per cent.
Parks will close, shutting access to thousands of square miles of beaches, redwood forest and other attractions that draw 80 million visitors a year. Thousands of prisoners will be released early and the notorious St Quentin penitentiary will be among state buildings put up for sale.
All financial aid for university students, affecting 200,000 people from low-income families, will end.
Local governments will no longer have to provide absentee ballots in elections, nor run programmes to help infants exposed to drugs. Even stray animals will no longer be kept alive for the statutory three days.