December 20, 2002

Commentary

Returning the Gleam of the Golden State

By Assemblywoman Pat Bates
73rd Assembly District

 There are many self-evident truths in California government; taxes are too high, government is too big and the state budget is teeming with waste. This statement about California government is depressing, no matter how accurate. These truths have finally caught up with California and the state now faces a budget deficit that might be as large as $30 billion over the next 18 months. Over the past two years the economic crisis has grown to what appears to be unmanageable levels. Now that the state has reached what hopefully is the apex of the current budgetary crisis, the Governor is ready to react.

After two years of warnings and predictions by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst, UCLA Anderson Economic Forecast and the Republican Caucus, the Governor has vowed to balance and cut $10 billion from the burgeoning state budget. He has called a special session of the legislature to do so. However, it is yet to be seen whether the Democratic leadership will approve such cuts or try and make up for the deficit through tax hikes and cutting funds to local governments.

In countless articles and interviews on television and radio the Democrat leadership has balked at the idea of cutting government waste and the massive size of state government. The leading solution proposed has been raising taxes for businesses and citizens with the remaining deficits to be accounted for through funding cuts to local government. These solutions would have dire consequences for California and the citizens who reside here.

California’s reputation as the nation leading “job-killer” state is growing at an alarming rate. With a sagging economy caused by business’ inability to grow due to burdensome regulations and taxation, we cannot afford to further increase their tax burden. In order to reverse the economic doldrums of California, we must stimulate economic growth, not continue to stifle it.

A lack of economic stimulus in California is dragging the economy down. The only thing that is keeping California afloat is increased consumer spending. If taxes are increased, disposable income will decrease and so will consumer sending. Without consumer spending the state deficits will certainly increase. It is painfully obvious that raising taxes will not solve the budget crisis of California.

Cutting and stealing funds from local government is neither a solution nor a valid option to the state budget crisis. For too long this has been the way that California has solved its budgetary problems. It can no longer be this way as local governments have become so lean that they cannot possibly handle the massive amount of cuts that they would be forced to withstand this time around.

The State of California needs real solutions, real cuts to state government and a new approach for dealing with business in the state. I am hopeful that in this legislative special session Democrats will work with Republicans in a bipartisan manner in seeking ample cuts to the state budget. Some of these cuts should seek accountability for how the government spends taxpayer’s money, zero-based budgeting for bureaucracies and stopping the over funding of unfilled staff positions. This is only a small step in the right direction for California. If the legislature works in a truly bipartisan manner then, and only then can we solve the budget crisis.

During this time of crisis California stands at a rather dynamic moment in our history. California can begin to redefine its self-evident truths and its image. This can be done by shrinking the size of our government and truly becoming a state that attracts business by balancing the needs of consumers with those of business. This special session called for by the Governor is an opportunity to once again make California the greatest state in the greatest nation.

Return to the Frontpage