Friday, January 11, 2013

Governor Brown's "Balanced" Budget

In a recent press conference , Governor Jerry Brown announced a "balanced" California budget. At the same time, Governor Brown admits that a "wall of debt" remains. If that is the case, then the budget is not balanced. Either Governor "Moonbeam" has been hanging out in the sun too long, or he thinks that any news would be good news, and since voters have endured darker, leaner times, that the voters will take anything as a “ray of light”.

Brown's "balanced" budget relies on rising revenues which have not been raised yet. Higher taxes rates do not mean higher revenues. These projections are examples of more slippery accounting which puts pressure on our public schools without providing proper revenue streams in the future. State Senator Ted Lieu attempted to sell the line that the California state budget was balanced, with "only" a one billion dollar deficit remaining. This is not budgeting. This is blowing hot air and calling it “substance”. One is tempted to write: "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining," when in reality this budget seems more like "BS" to voters in the South Bay.

All of Brown's accounting amounts to more of the same “Sacramento smoke and mirrors”, pure and simple. Taking the lead on "restoring funding", the governor wants to spend more money because the "deficits" have diminished. The last thing that the state legislature should be doing is spending more money, starting with “poor” public schools, which are not poor because they are not getting enough money. The student-teacher ratio is smaller in the inner city schools because they receive Title One funds.

If students in struggling schools are “struggling” to get a proper education, then the Governor should be the first to demand school choice for all students. Centinela Valley Union High School District , long regarded as one of the most dysfunctional districts in Los Angeles County, had to implement choice and install tighter security to keep student enrollment up. Charter schools in the LAX area are eating away at enrollment in LA school districts, including Inglewood Unified Dchool District , which entered into state receivership because of fiscal "problems". Wiseburn School District is breaking away to unify on its own. More freedom for the school districts, more freedom for the schools, more fiscal prudence, and students who are receiving a "poor" education can get something better.

Of course, Governor Brown could cut more sources of excessive spending. The Central Valley "bullet train" project is still shooting the state in the foot. When will the governor put the brakes on this wasteful project? Even recently re-elected state senator Fran Pavley assented that this boondoggle needs to be put on hold. How many billions of those "train" dollars could go toward training our youth? Future graduates may not be able not catch a train to the Central Valley, but at least they could earn a high school diploma, enroll in a state university, and get a good enough job to buy a car.

Still, like many liberal elites, Governor Brown is convinced that more money, more spending will improve the "poor education" of "poor" students in "poor" communities. However, four-fifths of the school districts' money goes toward employee pensions and benefits. The "wall of debt" lamented by the Governor stems from these lavish retirement obligations still weighing on the state. Tackle the spending, reform the entitlements, and the students will benefit from the properly redirected funds.

Governor Brown should also suspend the "Cap and Trade" program, even though credits went on sale last November. Contrary to initial projections, the carbon credit auction brought in a "grand" total of $55 million (as opposed to $1 billion). The California Chamber of Commerce sued to enjoin this unwieldy green bureaucracy. In their complaint, the Chamber submitted that this massive environmental intervention will cost the state $70 billion. Currently, electricity prices are rising because of "Cap and Trade". Governor Brown has already acknowledged that California's finances still hang in the balance, in spite of tax increases and slight job growth. Instead of taxing businesses and capping carbon emissions, the Governor should suspend the program, one enacted by a Republican governor, no less.

While Brown talks a good talk about balancing budgets, and even though he has acknowledged that his budget proposals rest on some over-optimistic expectations, and he also recognizes the still-imposing "wall of debt", the state of California continues to spend too much. Like Washington D.C., the lack of revenue is not the problem. The high taxes, the excessive regulations, and the fiscal management at the County and State levels are exacerbating the public debt in California.

Governor Brown’s “balanced” budget is anything but. California voters should hope that Republicans (and some Democrats) in Sacramento hold the governor's fiscal feet to the fire. The diminished Republican caucuses in Sacramento do not have to sit out until the next election. They can propose flexibility in funding for county and city governments. They can plea for eliminating waste and fraud in the state bureaucracy. They can also reach out to conservative Democratic voters and Democratic legislators in swing districts.

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