California Budget Challenge launches 2009 edition

The nonpartisan Next 10 has launched its 2009 online write-your-own California budget web site: www.next10.org/challenge/

Some of you may recall that this group started the budget challenge a few yeas ago in an effort to help Californians understand the trade-offs required to balance a state budget. Next10 even has a roadshow version complete with instant vote results.

Try it out. You will find it very interesting.

Here are more details from Next 10:

Sacramento, CA – It took California’s legislature three long months of intense negotiations to resolve this year’s budget standoff. Now Californians can try their hand at solving the Golden State’s budget woes in just 15 minutes. The nonpartisan “California Budget Challenge” (next10.org/challenge) is a free online educational tool from Next 10 that lets users try to balance California’s books and see how their choices will affect the state five years into the future.

“The California Budget Challenge allows Californians to set their own priorities and make tough decisions about what is best for the people of the state,” said F. Noel Perry, founder of Next 10.  “This nonpartisan tool allows everyday Californians to consider the ongoing effects of important policy choices.”

The Challenge is entering its fifth year as a nonpartisan resource and educational tool. The flash-based program leads users through choices on a variety of issues that affect the state’s finances, ranging from education to criminal justice. Users get to decide whether or not to raise income taxes, restructure Proposition 13, or expand health care coverage, among other choices. With each choice, a “budget meter” provides a running tally that shows the state’s budget gap growing or shrinking. As the options are presented, users are offered the opportunity to learn a lot more about the issue at hand, including arguments for and against each action with the option of an in-depth explanation of the policy choices.

The 2009 edition of the Budget Challenge has been updated to include many of the choices that legislators faced in this year’s budget cycle. The Challenge presents users with the fiscal situation the state faced before the Legislature’s and Governor’s most recent action so they can try their hand at solving the budget problem. Not only will users get a feel for some of the choices their elected officials made this year, they will also get an opportunity to better understand the measures on the May 19th Special Election ballot. The Special Election includes a slate of propositions that may dramatically alter California’s finances. In May, voters will decide on such issues as borrowing against lottery earnings and a cap on state spending.

“Californians have tremendous power at the polls,” added Perry. “With that power comes the responsibility to be fully informed about the issues. The Budget Challenge shows voters how their decisions fit into the larger picture of California’s finances.”

Over 80,000 people have taken the California Budget Challenge and created a budget which reflects their values and vision for the future. This year, Next 10 is taking the Challenge on the road, visiting classrooms and diverse communities throughout California. At each stop, Next 10 staff will teach audiences about the workings of California’s budget and give them a flavor for what it takes to balance the state’s budget.

The California Budget Challenge can be found at: www.next10.org/challenge

About Next 10: Next 10 is an independent, nonpartisan organization that educates, engages and empowers Californians to improve the state’s future.

Next 10 is focused on innovation and the intersection between the economy, the environment, and quality of life issues for all Californians. We create tools and provide information that fosters a deeper understanding of the critical issues affecting all Californians. Through education and civic engagement, we hope Californians will become empowered to affect change.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen