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Growing up, the front page of a newspaper was a powerful thing. This is especially true in New York, where there are newsstands and subways and other venues where even those who don’t regularly read the paper will certainly see a memorable headline.

But even in this days of weakened newspapers, the printed words matters. And the MediaNews group of 11 papers decided to make a statement, with a front page editorial on the state’s budget mess, with pointed words (emphasis mine):

The once great state of California today becomes a national disgrace.

While the federal government races to revive a failing economy, leaders in Sacramento wallow in finger-pointing and self-righteous bluster. Their failure to pass even an interim solution to the state’s $40 billion deficit by today’s deadline exponentially deepens the fiscal crisis.

The state will stop paying some of its bills and start issuing IOUs to cities such as Los Angeles, to school districts such as LAUSD and even to you.

It will stiff people due income tax refunds, students depending on Cal Grants to stay in college and contractors who have performed work. If the days without a budget continue, economic havoc will spread like a virus, and the state’s bad faith and credit will infect every corner of the state.

Californians should be furious. We are.

That’s why the Daily News is taking the rare step of running an editorial on the front page. This inaction is so serious that it threatens the economic stability of every resident and business of this state.

We encourage others to raise their voices as well. The political cost of delay must become too high for lawmakers to cling to principles that grim economic reality have rendered meaningless.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature must adopt a new budget now. The people should demand it.

The governor and all 120 legislators share responsibility for this. But most of the blame for the immediate crisis falls on Republicans in the Legislature, who last summer – to a person – signed a pledge not to raise taxes. Since then, Democrats and the Republican governor have offered significant compromise, but GOP lawmakers cling to ideological purity – schools, health care and other essential responsibilities be damned.

This day didn’t sneak up on anyone. It’s the result of too much borrowing and too little political courage over too many years. A systemic problem years in the making can’t be solved in a day. But the immediate crisis can. It comes down to cutting costs and raising taxes. No thoughtful person can seriously expect spending cuts alone to get us through this budget year without irreparable harm to our educational system and our economy.

Paralysis is destroying this state. Compromise is the only answer. It must happen now.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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