It’s hard to know where to start in California. Or more precisely, where to stop. Consider fines for minor traffic tickets. A 25$ ticket can end up in the hundreds of dollars when assessments and surcharges are added. And God help you if you miss a court date due to hospitalization. It is estimated that 4 million state residents have a suspended license due to failure to pay fines. And traffic cops are pressured into pushing the envelope when handing out fines. Never mind that your meter is still valid or you ran into the drugstore to get change, you will be ticketed. Why? It’s all about the state’s dismal fiscal position. Governor Jerry Brown stated that the state budget “is finally balanced — more precariously than I would like — but balanced” back in January. Unfortunately, those who are precariously balanced are low income drivers who need a car to get to work. No license, no car, no job. Welcome to the sidewalk.

How to balance the budget without leaning so heavily on drivers? Forget about spending cuts. There’s a high-speed rail line and carbon footprint reduction waiting to gobble up hundreds of millions, make that billions of state dollars. Utilities will have to produce 50% of their power from renewable sources if Jerry Brown has his way. And then there’s immediate problems like crumbling infrastructure, a battle over university funding with USC president Napolitano (that Napolitano yes) threatening massive tuition increases unless Brown pours hundreds of millions or more her way. And fellow Democrats in Sacramento want more spending on social subsidies, or safety nets as they like to say. And of course, there’s the costs of Obama’s immigration reforms.

So if drivers think that the judicial system – which depends on traffic tickets for a large part of its financing – is going to go easy on them, sorry. In fact, think about it. A judge’s salary and courtroom budget is paid, in large part, out ot the traffic tickets that you are appealing in her or his court. An absurd and unjust conflict of interest if there ever was one. While that great-feared-future earthquake might be California’s worst nightmare at some theoretical point in the future, there is a nightmare going on in the Golden State right now. It’s more a drought-plagued tar pit of fiscal excess, with the economy slowly sinking into the viscous, toxic sludge as state legislators add further burdens to the taxpayer who sinks deeper and deeper into the morass. And no high speed rail system or bundle of carbon-footprint regulatory burdens will ever rescue them. Or help the low income worker who will end up on the street because of a traffic ticket.

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