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16 billion reasons to write about California's budget crisis

May 19, 2012|By Paul Thornton
  • Gov. Jerry Brown speaks about the state budget on May 14. California's $16-billion budget deficit was this week's most-discussed topic among Times letter writers.
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks about the state budget on May 14. California's… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

Each week, The Times' editorial and opinion pages receives a few thousand emails sent to, most of which is spam, messages sent as part of letter-writing campaigns and more. After deleting those messages, I'm usually left with between 500 and 1,000 usable letters to the editor to consider for six weekly pages. Between 60 and 70 letters end up running in the paper during any given week.

Here is a snapshot of this week's mailbag.

832:  The number of printable letters to the editor (those that were actually under consideration for publication) submitted between 10 a.m. Friday, May 11, and 10 a.m. this past Friday.

72: How many readers weighed in on the state's $16-billion budget deficit and Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed cuts to close the gap, the week's most-discussed topic, and ...

31: Of those readers said they would vote against Brown's proposed tax increases.

The week's mailbag wasn't all bad for Brown; a few readers even praised him for having the fortitude to combine tax increases with deep spending cuts, both of which are unpopular with voters. One such example, printed on the Wednesday letters page, comes from reader Richard F. Corlin of Santa Monica:

"In this era when compromise and pragmatism are dirty words, Gov. Jerry Brown stands out like a giant.

"His analysis of California's financial condition, and his recommendation of new revenue via tax hikes combined with deep budget cuts, is honest.

"It represents the most logical response to a problem that is far more serious than many politicians acknowledge.

"His statement that the state of California and government at all levels are living beyond their means is absolutely correct.

"Let's use this opportunity not just to balance the budget but to reexamine what our government should be doing and then provide the funding to do it efficiently."

Most readers responding to the budget crisis, however, reacted in a way similar to H.K. Rhalfs of Irvine, whose letter was printed on Monday's page:

"Again we are facing budget shortfalls that need to be made up by more taxes. Is there an end to California's financial crisis? Do we have to go from crisis to crisis with no light at the end of the tunnel?

"The Greek financial shadow is looming larger because the governor doesn't have the guts to make the changes to get our house in order. No one says, 'Enough is enough.'

"I am glad I am 80 years old, but the future my children and grandchildren will endure frightens me to no end."

And as for last week's No. 1 topic, gay marriage: It came in second this week, with 63 reader letters, not far behind the 72 sent in response to the budget crisis. This shows that the volume of letters responding to any single major newsmaking topic (in this case, President Obama's announced support for marriage equality last week) tends to taper off instead of cease abruptly.


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