June 21 2002

Commentary

When it comes to the budget, we’re not getting our money’s worth

By Shirley Horton
Mayor of Chula Vista

The $24 billion budget crisis is a direct result of overspending by California’s politicians, not the under-taxation of California’s Latino families. Based on this truth two major principles must be adhered to during state budget negotiations. First, new taxes on California’s already overburdened Latino families are unacceptable. Second, budget solutions must address the long-term structural deficit.

Californians are not averse to paying taxes when we believe that taxes will fund something worthwhile, and that our money will be well managed. Since Governor Davis took office three years ago, government spending has increased an unbelievable 37% while our population has increased a mere 5%. Few of us would argue that our schools, our law enforcement, or our roads are 37% better. What we did get is more state employees – we now pay for over 315,000 of them including 34,000 new positions and 25,000 paid but nonexistent “ghost workers.” Add to this a $500 million sales tax increase last year, an expensive Oracle corruption scandal, and a refusal of the California state government to save $1 billion dollars by conforming to federal welfare eligibility standards.

We are simply not getting our money’s worth.

New taxes levied on working families also threaten to halt economic recovery. Taxes on small businesses further hamper the job climate. Furthermore, the Governor has proposed a two-year suspension of the state’s net loss carry-over tax break – a vital tool for biotech and hightech businesses that provide so many San Diego jobs.

The long term structural deficit must be addressed immediately. Even if we accept Governor Davis’ election year budget “solution,” we would not be any better off next year. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst notes that under the Davis plan, we would face a $10 billion shortfall next year, and $12 billion the year after.

The solution to uncontrolled spending by Sacramento is clear: voters must enact rules to limit politicians spendthrift ways. Many observers are supporting a Constitutional Amendment, to be voted on in the November 2002 election, which would prevent another fiscal train-wreck in the future. In short, the proposal would allow state spending to grow at the same pace as personal income, and no more, so that Sacramento politicians do not spend money that we do not have.

Additionally, rampant mismanagement and corruption calls for an independent commission to review all state programs and spending. The Grace Commission created by President Reagan offers us one model for an outside management review of the State’s service delivery systems. The individuals engaged in self dealing “sweetheart” deals and contracts which have cost taxpayers millions must be investigated and punished.

Today Sacramento spends $3,000 for every man, woman, and child to finance an increasingly ineffective, unaccountable, swollen government. Decades ago, under Democrat Governor Pat Brown we spent about $1,300 (in 2000 inflation-adjusted dollars). It is time for us to start getting what we pay for.

Shirley Horton is a candidate for the 78th Assembly district

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