Leftovers: Leftovers goes budget crisis

Since there wasn’t much going on in local politics over the holidays, here’s a eight-point plan for LA County to help fix California. Some of it’s quantifiable, and I realize some the money is from federal programs.

1. Reduce firefighter pay until there are about 10 qualified applicants for each job. Right now, hundreds apply for each position.

LA’s city and county fire departments, which make up two thirds of the county’s firefighters, cost a combined $1.5 billion.

A 10 percent reduction would reduce average annual firefighter pay from about $117,000 to $105,000.

Savings: Probably about $225 million if all departments are included

2. No reduced or free school lunches for school kids with fancy videogame systems. Why should the rest of us pay for food when kids go home to beat up hookers in the virtual world created by a $400 system?

About 59 percent of LA county’s million students get reduced lunches at $2.68 per lunch.

Savings: Probably about $180 million per year.

3. Unless a math or reading curriculum turns out to be a flop, force school districts to keep math and language arts texts for at least 20 years. They can replace aging books, but they would not be able to overhaul entire sets of books every three years, like the way it is now.

Although there’s no place to find the figure, it’s possible that schools have been paying $33 million a year for math and language books.

Savings: $25 million a year

4. Make laws more accessible by creating a panel of eighth-graders that must read and pass a quiz on any new law passed by the Legislature. Same thing with city and state budgets.

Savings: Who knows? The sky’s the limit if we actually understand how the government works.

5. For any new law passed, an old one must die.

Savings: Can’t tell

6. Increase pay for local politicians. During the housing boom, builders bought politicians. Those politicians in turn allowed developers to stuff houses into every nook and cranny. I don’t want them always scrambling for money, and politicians put in a lot of time.

How about $40,000 a year for City Council members, $5,000 of which pays for governance conferences.

Savings: Probably a wash since many politicians already spend plenty of extra money.

7. Keep water under local control, but get rid of the “middle-man” districts that stand between the Metropolitan Water District and local areas. And make the local districts a little bigger.

Savings: Hard to say, but it would probably be plenty.

8. Raise tuition to $2,000 for junior college, and then give back $2,200 to students who actually finish all their classes. Right now, it’s about $500.

Only a quarter of students who are in junior college transfer or achieve an associate’s degree within six years, according to a study reported in the Washington Post. Junior colleges every August and January have to hire thousands of teachers. My JC physics class started with 42 students and ended with eight.

Savings: The community college budget is $6 billion, so I would say $500 million is a safe estimate for schools in our county.

Total estimated savings: $930 million

You’re welcome, California.