’t even agree on how big the state’s budget deficit is, much
less on how to fix it. Is it around $35 billion, as the governor
claims, or nearly $9 billion less, as the nonpartisan legislative
analyst Elizabeth Hill asserts?
Our leaders in Sacramento can’t even agree on how big the state’s budget deficit is, much less on how to fix it. Is it around $35 billion, as the governor claims, or nearly $9 billion less, as the nonpartisan legislative analyst Elizabeth Hill asserts?
Voters understandably have little hope that the crisis will be wisely or swiftly resolved if the parties involved can’t even agree on the size of the problem.
Our newly re-elected governor, Gray Davis, has proposed a $96.4-billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
This crisis calls for someone who’s respected across the political spectrum to craft a bipartisan plan that will close the budget gap in a way that makes sense. We think the man for the job is our state Sen. Bruce McPherson, R-Santa Cruz.
This guy must appeal to the left, the middle and the right to be a consistently re-elected Republican from Santa Cruz County.
Davis, who California voters unenthusiastically chose as the lesser of two evils, or as one comic put it, the evil of two lessers, is showing a shocking lack of leadership and courage in the face of the state’s budget woes.
Instead of making hard choices and clearly explaining them, he’s proposed a “rob Peter to pay Paul” shell game that’s fooling no one.
Taking big hits are taxpayers – $8.3 billion in higher levies – some health and welfare programs and state aid to cities and counties. Largely spared is public health insurance for children. Some need to feel more pain, including the Corrections Department, which would sacrifice less than 1 percent of its $5.6-billion budget, compared with about 8 percent in overall state cuts. Davis, who accepted lavish donations from the prison guards, has something to prove on this issue.
Davis proposes to reinstate the 10 percent and 11 percent income tax brackets imposed by Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s – and to raise the sales tax by a penny on the dollar statewide, to more than 9 percent here in Santa Clara County. The new money, $8.3 billion including higher cigarette levies, would go to the counties to pay for the health and welfare programs they would absorb. By linking the tax increases to social services being taken over by localities, Davis makes reducing them in the future much harder.
Moreover, Davis is taking back from the cities and counties nearly $3 billion annually in state payments that made up for the loss of shrinking car tax revenues. Davis’ income tax boost threatens to make the tax system even more volatile, increasing the gyrations that made the deficit so sudden and so steep. That needs fixing.
We urge McPherson to sit down with senators, assemblymen, and, yes, folks from the governor’s office to come up with a no-nonsense plan to deal with the red ink flowing from Sacramento.
The first step should be symbolic and substantial cuts that start in Sacramento: elected officials should embrace across-the-board pay cuts for themselves, accompanied by an immediate hiring freeze for their staffs. We don’t need more expensive assistants and analysts swarming Sacramento; officials need to do more, much more, with less.
Next, the state must stop tolerating waste and fraud in government programs.
There can be no sacred cows, no untouchable programs, in the unpleasant, but utterly necessary, detailed review of government spending. This is a time for hard choices. Which is more important, adequate infrastructure or jailing non-violent criminals? Which is preferable, adequate health care for the needy or a new death row? Is it better to have enough teachers or enough prison guards?
No one said these are simple decisions, but they must be made – now. Waiting only eliminates options in a time when options are too few to begin with.
The last resort should be raising taxes. Let’s make sure we understand the impact of raising taxes before we rush to generate the revenue.
As they say, time is money. Sen. McPherson, your state needs you, now. Lead the way to a sane and sound plan to pull the state out of the billion-dollar budget hole and onto sound fiscal ground.