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Hey, lawmakers: Cut the rhetoric, pass a budget

Posted: August 2, 2008 9:30 p.m.
Updated: October 4, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 
A month into California’s fiscal year, absent a state budget mandated by law — thanks to a deadlocked Legislature — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order Thursday that calls for rollbacks to minimum wage for state employees. The order also lays off 10,300 part-time and temporary state workers and halts hiring, overtime and contracting.

It’s a sad day in California when minimum wage salary cuts are an alternative to decisive state leadership. An alternative to those who were elected to do a job doing their job.

Some say the governor’s move is a grandstanding ploy to shake up legislators so they will do their jobs.
Grandstanding may be fine on the silver screen, but playing games with people’s livelihoods doesn’t strikes us as acceptable behavior in the state Capitol.

Here’s an idea: How about some leadership from the top down?

Interestingly, Schwarzenegger put pen to executive order on the same day that Lt. Gov. John Garamendi announced he’s running for governor in 2010.

Perhaps if he wants to get voters on his side, Garamendi should lead the charge of those serious about this financial mess.

He could sit down with his accountant, figure out how much money he needs to survive, and take a cut in his $159,134 annual salary.

Given all the financial hits the public education system has taken, can Jack O’Connell, superintendent of public instruction, make some cuts to his $184,301 yearly salary?

Do our state Assembly members truly, honestly need $116,208 a year to get by? Especially when they can’t produce a budget on time?

Sure, those cuts wouldn’t exactly get us out of our $16 billion hole.

But they could create some camaraderie among the nearly quarter-million workers the governor stabbed in the back on Thursday.

People want leaders who are willing to stand beside them on the front lines. Leaders who say: “We are in this fight together.” They don’t need to hear from an armchair general who’s safely protected.

Nor should they accept legislators’ inaction. Again.

The yearly budget dance marathon needs new music. Here’s another idea: Instead of legislators being paid retroactively to July 1 no matter when they produce a budget, let’s have an executive order that says they don’t get paid salaries, per diems or any other official expenses — and are not allowed to go on lucrative public speaking tours — until they deliver a budget?

We doubt the budget would ever be late again if legislators were held accountable, with penalties for their inaction and tardiness, just as there are in the private business sector.

To those in seats of power, we say: You are out of touch. Don’t tell us to hold on while you figure things out. We’re not buying your rhetoric anymore.

Schwarzenegger said he signed the executive order to avoid a “full-blown crisis.”

To California’s leaders, we say: The crisis is already full-blown. Deflating it requires that you band together, knock off the partisan politics, and get the budget passed.

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