There is cause for pessimism and optimism locally.
The Madera City Council is pondering its proposed budget, which would see a reduction in force of more than 20 jobs, and the Madera County Board of Supervisors will soon be conducting its own budget hearings. The county labor force has taken cuts totaling almost one-third in the past few years. Will more be on the way?
The California Legislature’s recently passed $92 billion budget takes more from local governments than it gives, and is based on the potential passage of a tax increase Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking, but is not sure of passage.
The Legislature did nothing to address state employee pensions, which are severely underfunded, even though Brown has raised a hue and cry that something should be done to keep pensions from bankrupting the state.
Nobody was talking about any of this Saturday night at the Paleontology Foundation’s fundraiser, held at the Sherman Thomas Ranch estate south of Madera. The topic of discussion there: How good this year’s almond crop looks, and that even though it may be a bumper crop, prices probably will hold up.
With that kind of information to talk about, the budget problems of the state seem far away.
Not only are the almonds doing well, so are the pistachios. Olives look good, walnuts look good, the grapes look great right now, too. And dairying is right up there.
All that is cause for optimism.
But we can’t forget that the largest employer in Madera County is government in all its forms. When government sneezes, we all catch cold.
That’s because the nation’s biggest economic activity, as measured in the Gross Domestic Product, is consumer spending. When consumers slow or stop their spending, the economy suffers. When those consumers happen to be laid-off government employees, the rest of us eventually share their pain.