By John Dangaran

Next 10, an independent and nonpartisan civic education organization, takes an interesting approach toward educating people and receiving public input about the California budget and its $20 billion deficit.

This upcoming Club event on June 14 will center on the “California Budget Challenge,” an online, interactive program that really puts California’s state budget in the hands of the people.

The simulation strives to balance the state’s $90 billion General Fund budget by covering 20 themes consisting of a single question for each topic, including issues such as education, health care, taxes and pensions. With every question, participants are provided the background of the issue along with each side’s arguments. Along the way, you’re able to follow the Budget Meter as it tracks the five-year projection your budget has against the current deficit.

After finishing the simulation, a detailed summary of your freshly made budget is shown alongside the status quo as well as the budget adopted for 2010-11 for easy comparison.

Once completed, you’re able to print your summary and graphs and send your results – or info on the Challenge - to friends and family. One of the simulation’s most remarkable features is that it gives you the option to send your summary to your legislators (depending on your zip code) and Governor Jerry Brown.

Though the program is only 20 questions, be prepared to spend a little time learning about these complicated issues before being able to make well-informed decisions. This isn’t a simple online quiz that can be completed in a few seconds, but rather a highly detailed tool meant for educating the people of California.