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California's Jerry Brown Takes Action on State's Finances - Has Sanity Returned?

You haven't heard a lot lately about the state of California's finances. They're still not good. A report from the state treasurer says the Golden State's debt burden — the amount of the general fund going to service debt — is up to 7.8 percent, more than double what it was eight years ago.According to the report, each Californian owes $2,542 this year for state debt, more than twice the national median of $1,066.

It could be worse.

Gov. Jerry Brown, in what may be a flair of libertarian independence, vetoed several bills this week which he said "protect the state budget and strengthen fiscal stability in California."

The most amazing thing is someone actually introduced these bills in the first place.

Take the bill sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernandez. It would have allowed state welfare recipients to own "one car, or possibly more, of any value." That means someone living on the taxpayers' dole could own a Lamborghini. Gov. Brown sided with current law which limits the maximum value of a car to $4,650. "Until we better understand the fiscal outlook, we should not be making changes of this kind," he wrote. Excuse me, until we better understand the fiscal outlook? How about, "This is an insane idea."

But wait, there's more!

The Governor also vetoed a bill which would have allowed 100,000 California daycare providers to unionize and bargain collectively. Imagine the specter of babysitters on strike.

Jerry Brown and organized labor have been good friends, and the Service Employees International Union was backing the bill. Bad timing. "Maintaining the quality and affordability of childcare is a very important goal," Gov. Brown wrote, "So too is making sure that working conditions are decent and fair for those who take care of our children." Still, he vetoed the bill, saying that, "California, like the nation itself, is facing huge budget challenges. Given that reality, I am reluctant to embark on a program of this magnitude and potential cost."

At the same time, Gov. Brown approved some measures, including one that would ban people from "deducting business expenses connected with illegal activity then receiving a state tax refund."

WHAT? This has been legal? Apparently.

He also approved a bill allowing the state to seize the driver's licenses of the California's top 1,000 tax cheats, though if you're cheating the state out of a lot of money, you're probably not going to be bothered by details like having a license.

Overall, it appears some sanity has returned to California.

Not completely. We're still pretty nutty.

Just today, some Los Angeles County firefighters who allowed fire trucks to be used in porn videos learned they won't be disciplined because the videos were made more than two years ago. Yep, there's a statute of limitations on that. Gives new meaning to "your tax dollars at work!" And then there's this: in these constrained budgetary times, Gov. Brown may sign a bill allowing college students in this country illegally to apply for public financial aid.

Now, THAT's the California we know and love. Well, the California we know.

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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