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California Budget Challenge Online Tool Lets Users See Impact Of Spending Choices

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday proposed additional, deep state budget cuts and warned once again that even more cuts lie ahead if voters in November reject his tax-hike initiative. As voters and lawmakers alike grapple with these proposals, Californians can try their hand at reducing the state’s budget gap — their own way.

Next 10, a nonpartisan policy organization based in San Francisco, has released the 2012 version of their California Budget Challenge, an online tool that lets users understand the serious choices facing the state and determine where they stand on a series of spending and revenue policy options. Users can create a budget that reflects their values and share it with their elected representatives and others.

“Californians are talking about the issues presented in the latest budget proposal by Governor Brown, but few understand the specifics that will have a very real impact on their lives,” said F. Noel Perry, the founder of Next 10, in a statement. “The California Budget Challenge provides people outside of the formal policy making process with a way to learn about and work through the major choices being discussed in Sacramento.”

The online budget simulation guides users through a series of decisions over how much to spend on education, prisons, healthcare and more, then they choose whether to raise or lower taxes. With each choice, a graph displays how those decisions affect the budget deficit as well as arguments for and against each choice.

The California Budget Challenge utilizes figures from both the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office and Brown’s budget proposals.

“The California Budget Challenge gives citizens a unique opportunity to see how all of the major pieces fit together and the trade-offs inherent in putting together a balanced budget for our state,” Michael Genest, who served as a state finance director under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, told PR Newswire.

Since its debut in 2005, Next 10 indicated that more than 250,000 people have utilized the California Budget Challenge online tool.

(Copyright 2012 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)

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