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Playing California's Budget Game

California's record $35-billion budget deficit is anything but a game, but a Sacramento Bee columnist has made it one. The paper's Daniel Weintraub challenged his readers to study where the money goes, and then plug their proposed spending cuts and tax increases into an online budget game.

As NPR's Andy Bowers reports for Morning Edition, Weintraub developed a kind of printed and online parlor game that walks players through what state programs do, and how much they cost. It also shows how California general fund spending has jumped by one third since 1998. Weintraub says people often ask him why the state just can't roll spending back to that earlier figure.

The game is designed to show why it's not easy to balance the budget. But that didn't stop some players from coming up with some novel solutions. One suggested legalizing prostitution and gambling, then "taxing both those activities to the hilt," Weintraub says.

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