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Fix the budget breach

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: June 17, 2008 7:51 p.m.
Updated: August 17, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Yesterday, June 15, 2008, was the deadline for the California Legislature to constitutionally pass the state budget. Legislators have now missed their obligation for the 21st straight year. It's the "government work" syndrome. Once Article IV, Section 12 of the California Constitution was breached with no repercussions or public outcry, than the breach became an acceptable norm.

The "ho hum" attitude in Sacramento exists because most of our representatives look past June 15 and focus on July 1. That is when the state Constitution demands that both the Legislature and the governor approve and enact the new budget.

Meanwhile, school districts and city governments must function on guesswork.

Since the May Revise, the posing and public posturing of many of our elected state officials has clouded the real work being done by the special committee made up of three members from each house. Four of the committee members are Democrats, and two are Republicans.

Their task has been to find common ground between the original $143.4 billion budget calling for a flat 10 percent across-the-board cuts and the May update, which suggested wiping out $15.2 billion by borrowing from future creative lotteries.

If the lottery option is denied, the governor has proposed that Californians pay an additional 1 percent sales tax. It is a Hamlet-like perplexity at best.

This accepted pattern of last-minute governance just doesn't work.

Times are tough for many Californians. Taxpayers working in private industries are dwindling in number, and their resources have been tapped out.

Our state can't continue to function as if there is an endless supply of money.

Why is the Legislature still avoiding an attempt at eliminating duplicative programs, getting rid of costly, ineffective mandated legislation, and checking for fraudulent use of taxpayers' money? Real budgetary reform might take a little time, but it clearly would stop the quick fix of tax hikes and excessive borrowing.

Even though Republicans are small in number, their votes are needed since the Democrats must obtain a two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and the Senate. Essentially, Republicans are calling for cuts, while Democrats are once again trying to increase spending. The Republicans are right.

Speaking of Republicans, I hope you've been following what Santa Clarita's Assemblyman Cameron Smyth has been doing in Sacramento. Amid the number of bills that Cameron has introduced, one has not only a local, but also national connection.

Most of us recall the plan he proposed as Santa Clarita City Councilman regarding vendors and the hiring of illegal aliens. His plan, which was approved, prevented companies who hired illegals from doing business with City Hall.

It also called for the enforcement of existing trespassing and loitering laws already on the books. In addition, it called for the enforcement of the health and safety codes that limit the number of people allowed to live in one apartment.

California Assembly Bill 107, proposed by Smyth, requires businesses that contract work for the state to verify under penalty of perjury that their employees have valid documentation. Those businesses are held accountable to pay the minimum wage.

Unfortunately, AB107 was dead in the Sacramento water, largely due to negative arguments presented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Smyth has been quoted as saying, "The difference between an immigrant and an illegal alien is the equivalent of the difference between a burglar and a houseguest."

The national connection to Smyth's vigilant quest surfaced last Monday, June 9. President Bush signed an executive order requiring companies doing business with the federal government to start checking the legal status of their employees. They are required to use a new system called E-Verify to check Social Security numbers. This includes all employees from food service workers to NASA launchers.

Elected state Republicans have become taxpayers' watchdogs. Remember Smyth when you go to the polls, or fill in your absentee ballots this November. Also remember Tony Strickland, who is running for the California Senate seat vacated by Senator McClintock.

Tony is a former assemblyman and true conservative. He is a proven leader with a history of protecting consumers and reforming government. We need to keep this seat in the Republican column.

While it is extremely difficult for a Republican to get a bill on the Assembly floor, let alone a first-term Republican such as Smyth, it is also difficult for Democrats to pass the state budget without some Republican votes. State elected Republicans are stressing reform, and much of that involves education reform.

AB 3008 sets aside any costly state-imposed mandates, and AB 2890 provides greater flexibility in spending categorical block grant funds.

AB 2955 ensures accountability in schools and provides transparency in how limited education dollars are spent. It requires the state to make all school data available in easily accessible format. These are just some of many Republican proposals that allow more local control of mandated dollars.

When lawmakers simply toss out dollars without accountability, a budget means little or nothing. Ignoring deadlines and then imposing mandates does not provide municipalities and school districts the ability to achieve success.

The California Constitution requires budget deadlines because they are necessary to keep the state running efficiently. It's about time the governor and elected state officials honor the state constitution.

Paul B. Strickland Sr. is a resident of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. Right Here Right Now appears Mondays in The Signal and rotates among several local Republican writers.


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