- Published on Wednesday, 06 May 2009 01:35
- Written by Los Altos Town Crier
It’s not easy to say no. A part of us wants to find real and reasonable solutions to the state budget crisis. We can easily blame our legislators for irresponsible spending, but the fact remains, we voted them in. And, of course, the economy has not been cooperative. In many ways, their spending reflected what many citizens have continued to do: spend and borrow, only to lose their jobs and homes as the economy turned sour.
What to do? We think state Propositions 1A-1F, on the May 19 ballot, are not the answers. All six come in the aftermath of our frazzled legislators’ finalizing the budget last February - seven months late. The propositions as a whole bid to raise our taxes over four years (1A) while shifting pots of money promised for preschool education (1D) and mental health services (1E) into the general fund to make up a multibillion-dollar deficit. Meanwhile, 1C would promote more gambling on the state lottery and commits future profits toward the general budget. 1F prevents legislator pay raises during deficit years.
1A is plainly deceptive. Calling for "restrictions on the state budget process," it would establish a 12.5 percent reserve fund to "stabilize" the budget and restrict spending even in good economic years. Sounds responsible. But the increased state taxes recently passed would be extended another two years under 1A. Then, in a cynical effort to get 1A support from the powerful state teachers' union, legislators added "Education Funding. Payment Plan" under 1B, which requires supplemental payments to school districts to address recent budget cuts. But the Legislature, as the League of Women Voters pointed out, can restore education funds on its own, in a more straightforward way. Because 1B is tied to 1A, passage is moot if 1A goes down.
1C is especially egregious, allowing the state to issue $5 billion in bonds that it would borrow from future lottery profits. Considering the state's poor credit rating, this could be easier said than done. Not only does it take money from education, 1C also gives $1 million a year to the state Office of Problem Gambling. Huh?
1D and 1E are shell games, taking money from children and the mentally ill to fund the general budget while creating the illusion that these groups would still be adequately funded. Short-sighted and clearly stopgap approaches, these measures deserve your dismissal.
1F is a gratuitous, populist move that promises no pay raises to legislators during budget deficit years. We say no here. A better proposal might be no pay for anybody in the State Capitol for each day past budget deadline.
So what is the solution? As far as we can tell, the best option is old-fashioned belt-tightening and living within our means. It simply means painful cutting until we have a balanced budget. Then we work hard to build a better economy and avoid the spending sprees of boom budget years that made our state go bust.