California's budget is (currently) $24 billion dollars in the hole, and likely to get worse. The Los Angeles TImes has posted an interactive "game" you can play to see what cuts you would make and what new revenues you would raise to balance the budget.
I'll be blunt: I was brutal, and it was still tough to do. I set myself a limit of no new taxes and no borrowing: only savings via cuts and new revenues outside of taxes. In the end, I had to make some hard choices, including closing the community college system, ending welfare aid to legal immigrants, releasing state prisoners early, and killing the Cal-grant program that enables a lot of students to attend college. But, I was able to cut 99% of our deficit without raising taxes or borrowing more money.
You too can take the test. If you do, post your results in the comments section.
Some observations about this test: the LA Times has a decidedly pro-liberal bent to it, so I can't be sure the cuts it offered were all those available, or that the dire consequences they predicted (e.g, the teacher's union would sue) would come to pass. However, I avoided those cuts they listed as probably illegal. Also, the game presents cuts as all or nothing: you either keep community colleges or you get rid of them entirely – there's no middle ground, such as some cuts and some fee increases. Again, this may be trying to scare the public into saying "We just can't do that!" I also think they underplayed potential new revenue sources, such as more extensive offshore drilling.
Also, cutting $24 billion from California's budget leaves over $100 billion to spend in the next proposed budget. (PDF) I have to ask: what is in that remaining amount that makes it untouchable? Are there legally obligated expenditures we cannot touch? The budget proposal makes it unclear, and the Times' game doesn't address it.
Nonetheless, California is facing a fiscal disaster, and the people are taxed to the limits of their patience, as the recent election results show. Severe cuts have to be made, and the Times' article is a useful illustration of how painful they likely will be.