(photo by Jeff Keen, Flickr, Creative Commons)
I live in California. In the 19 years I've lived here the state has been late in approving a budget more times than not. Developing a state budget is a game - literally - you can play it here on the LA Times's website. Our Governor is offering up signed state-owned tchotchkes at a "California Garage Sale" to raise money. Of course, it is not a game. California is the world's 10th largest economy. Lives depend on the state budget.
And in the last year we set a new (low) standard in budgeting practices. The State has been issuing IOUs since July 1. Only last night (July 20) was a budget agreement reached. That is better than nothing - but this sentence in a New York Times story about the agreement nearly made me spit out my coffee this morning:
"While the state’s health insurance program for children, Healthy Families, remains, it was cut by $144 million, meaning thousands of children will probably be on a waiting list for the program unless a private foundation makes up the balance, as the Democratic-controlled Legislature hopes. (my emphasis added)"How can we expect to run a state on hope? For all the important opportunities there are for public problem solvers, private corporations, philanthropists and social entrepreneurs to work together to address our shared challenges, what kind of democracy depends on philanthropy? The irony here is too rich - good foundation program officers will redline a nonprofit applicant's budget if they include a "line item for hope" - and now the state is using a placeholder marked "foundations" to provide health insurance to children?
I was planning on posting a piece today about the dynamics between philanthropy and the press - a topic I've written about before and which has been getting more and more attention since my-admittedly-beloved The New York Times announced it had discussed seeking foundation-sponsorship for certain pieces. This is a practice already in place at The Atlantic and The Washington Monthly, and as we increasingly rely on independent investigative journalism outfits such as ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting - and maybe new models like spot.us - it will likely continue. Given how often Nicholas Kristof and Tom Friedman of the NY Times now write about NGOs it seemed clear that philanthropic communications officers (if not yet philanthropic dollars) had already gotten through to the press. Needless to say, I have lots of questions about the press and philanthropy.
But state government budgeting based on hoped-for philanthropic support? That should be raising lots of questions from lots of people.