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Our View: Time to put Sacramento on the wagon

Posted: April 18, 2009 10:39 p.m.
Updated: April 19, 2009 4:30 a.m.
 
California voters are fed up. And they should be.

The quacks who occupy the chairs in the state Senate and Assembly have driven our state’s financial train to a wreck, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger has broken the tax-cutting promises that transformed him into the Governator.

Maybe we should have seen his tag line coming: “I’ll be back — with a tax hike.”

Now these jokers are asking you, the voters and taxpayers of this once-fine state, to enable their uncontrolled tax-and-spend binges, just as a friend or family member might enable an alcoholic before discovering Al-Anon.

We say enough is enough.

It is long past time to put them on the wagon.

We agree with the majority of California voters in the latest poll who shun the first five propositions on the May 19 special election ballot — and we oppose the sixth one, as well, for reasons we will gladly explain.

1A: Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund
Don’t be fooled by talk of a “spending cap.” This measure would extend the recent 1 percent sales tax increase for two more years, giving the politicians more of our hard-earned tax dollars to squander.

The Legislature should be setting aside money for a rainy day. But it should be doing it with windfall tax dollars such as the surplus revenues it received during the dot-com bubble — not with a tax hike in lean times.

It’s as if the whiny politicians don’t even understand that they aren’t the biggest sufferers in a bad economy. The biggest sufferers are the small businesses and their employees — and now the state wants to take away even more of their money? Get real.

1B: Education Funding

Public education is important, right? Sure it is. That’s why half of the state budget goes to education.

This measure would “repay” the $9.3 billion that was “cut” from school districts and community colleges in the last budget. Proposition 1B applies only if Proposition 1A also passes, so it should be a moot point.

But Proposition 1B ought to fail for other reasons, too. It rewrites the formula for school funding, putting schools on an upward funding spiral that would require tax increases, or even greater borrowing in the future, to sustain it.

1C: Lottery Modernization Act

Let’s see if we’ve got this right. The idea is to give more money to schools through Proposition 1B, then take away a growing source of school funding by borrowing against future lottery revenues and using them for something else?

If this were a joke, it might be funny.

1D: Children’s Services Funding
With Rob Reiner leading the charge, Californians approved a 50-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes in 1998 to fund “First 5,” a statewide program that provides services for pregnant women, families and children during the first five years of life.

Critics say the First 5 bureaucracy is mismanaged and the state would save money if it gutted the program and diverted $275 million or more per year to the state’s general fund.

All Proposition 1D gives us is a promise that the money would go to health and human services for children.

The reality is, once the money is added to the state’s general fund, you can kiss it goodbye.

1E: Mental Health Funding – Reallocation
Just like 1D, Proposition 1E assumes voters are fickle, and that they’ll back down from something they said they wanted as recently as 2004.

That’s when Californians approved a 1-percent tax on millionaire incomes to fund mental health services for children and adults.

It’s a nice chunk of change, and the politicians want it.

Voters might be fickle, but our legislators are crazy.

1F: Elected Officials’ Salaries
This one would freeze the politicians’ salaries any time the state runs a deficit.
We’re against it.

It’s a meaningless gesture that sends too weak of a message.

Assembly members and senators are paid $116,208 per year — plus $162 for each day they’re in session — for a total of roughly $150,000.

What difference does it make if they’re collecting $150,000 or $152,000?

None.

Here in the real world — at the newspaper, in the classroom, in the local Realtor’s office — we’re taking pay cuts, in large part because California is already the highest-taxing state in the nation.

We wish we could merely freeze salaries.

If the politicians can’t balance the state budget, they aren’t fulfilling their most basic, entry-level job assignment.

If the voters of their districts won’t fire them, then at the very least, they shouldn’t be paid.

At all.

Any time the state is in the red, the politicians should be forced to forego their salary and their per diem stipend.

Either that, or treat them like AIG bonus recipients and hit them with a 100-percent tax.

That’s where we stand on the May 19 propositions. If you have a different opinion — or even if you agree — we encourage you to submit a letter or a guest column and explain your position.

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