You might remember some years ago when the lawyers stuck it to "big tobacco". The result was huge annual payments to each state for the cost of lost lives and lost health from smoking. It was called the Master Settlement Agreement. So, we get this big payment each year that is used for Merit scholarships, smoking cessation programs, or anything else we feel like using it for. Last year we "securitized" about $400 million and created the "21st Century Jobs Fund." That is the boondoggle that gave the governor an open checkbook to give out goodies to her friends. Of course she has to get approval by the 21st Century Jobs Fund BOARD before writing the checks. (Oh, wait a minute, is that the board that is comprised of her handpicked friends?) Well, I digress. Anyway, by taking 20 years worth of annual payments up front, we obligated ourselves to pay the penalties for early withdrawal; the $400 million will end up costing the state $990 million.
Hey, this was such a great idea, we decided to do it again this year. We are taking another advance payment of $500 million to cover the bills we can't pay this year. So, there it is. The budget for 2006-2007 is balanced! I can't wait for next year's budget, which is already a couple billion dollars in the hole, (assuming the additional $1 billion in NEW programs the governor has announced.)