AP/Charles Schulz, modified by Olsen Ebright
These are the days when we're reminded of a smiling Lucy holding the football in advance of Charlie Brown's kick, only to yank it away at the very end as a barreling Charlie Brown predictably lands on his keester.
That scenario has played out yet again with California's 2011-2012 budget, only this time Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature are playing the role of Lucy, while hopeful Californians are standing in as Charlie Brown.
Sadly, the result is the same, as the Sacramento contingent has once again pulled the ball away from the public, just as it does almost every year.
If you think about how the budget was stitched together with the weakest financial thread a couple of months ago, you had to see it coming.
Failing to produce an honest budget with real numbers, the governor and legislature decided to use play money.
"We're assuming that we'll collect an additional $4 billion in revenues beyond what's coming in," they said, as if such a fairy tale claim would end the discussion about hard questions like taxes and spending.
Well, it did, for about six weeks.
Now we're back to square one.
It seems like we're already short a half billion dollars from revenue projections, placing the state ever so near to the "back up" plan for inadequate revenue.
This includes all the things legislators and the governor didn't want to do the first time: higher community college fees, further cuts to a ravaged higher education program, as much as seven fewer school days in a state with one of the lowest attendance requirements in the nation.
Plus additional reductions to already decimated social services.
We knew this day would come--but the policy makers in Sacramento just looked the other way rather than face the truth.
What's most depressing is that policy makers continue to refuse acknowledging the disaster.
"It's still early," says Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, referring to the December cut off when when at least one billion dollars in additional cuts must take place because of the legislature's refusal to raise taxes.
This in a state where the unemployment rate continues to hover two points higher than the national average.
But the 2011 Budget Chutzpah Award goes to Assembly speaker John Perez, who proudly said recently, "We anticipated revenues based on projections, but we had a backup plan," referring to more cuts.
Backup plans are alternative ways to reach the same goals. That's hardly the case here where as much as $4 billion may be cut in the next few months.
But then it's football season. Maybe this time we'll really kick the ball. Right Lucy?