In today's Left Angeles Times is an article concerning the debacle that has become the California state budget and offers five "solutions" that almost could have come right from the California Democrat Party handbook.
Almost because one of the five "solutions" actually scratches the surface of a large reason the state is in the budget mess in the first place.
The first "solution" is one that deals with the primary way that California raises revenue in the first place. The state income tax. The following:
Updating the tax structure
California is extremely reliant on personal income taxes to fund government. It is a source of cash that is unpredictable and subject to huge swings. When the stock market is soaring, it is great for the state.
California's millionaires and billionaires contribute wads of capital gains taxes in those good years, and the state has consistently used that money to grow programs.
The richest 1% of residents end up contributing half of all the personal income tax the state collects.
As soon as the economy takes a dip and the stock market stalls, the money stops flowing and the state plunges into a crisis.
Note the admission that the Times writer, Evan Halper, has to make. That the top one percent of California residents pay half of all the personal income tax the state collects. That is totally unsustainable. It is a totally unfair system and it takes out many Californians. By taking out so many, there is a totally unrealistic view of taxes and who pays taxes in this state.
Of course the "solutions" go downhill from the obvious one.
Take the next one, the two-thirds rule.
California voters voted for this in the middle of the Great Depression in 1933. The voters realized that the legislature would not stop raising taxes unless they were reigned in and they acted accordingly. But, the Times does not like this little fact:
Ending the two-thirds rule
Only two other states require two-thirds of its Legislature to approve a state budget. The rule was added to the California Constitution by voters in 1933.
The idea was to make it exceedingly difficult for the Legislature to raise taxes. And it is.
But it also has become exceedingly difficult for lawmakers to merely do their job and get any spending plan in place -- with or without new taxes.
GOP lawmakers, a minority in the Legislature, tend to use the influence they have over the budget to renew policy demands that had been neglected for much the year.
Democrats complain they are being extorted for budget votes. Gridlock follows.
Nothing happens until the state stops paying its bills or comes close to it.
Lawmakers rush a budget onto the governor's desk that uses borrowing and other gimmicks to paper over much of the problem. The cycle repeats itself.
Notice how Mr. Halper frames this as the legislature "exceedingly difficult to merely do their job and get any spending plan in place". Well, it should be if it is nothing expanding government without the means to sustain it. And, of course it is all the Republicans fault. You know, because their presence keeps the Democrats from running hog-wild in raping the California tax payer. Which they would do with impunity if the Republicans did not stand for the tax payer.
Of course, the third "solution" would be to curtail the rights of the citizenry to put initiatives on the ballot because, in reality, they just get in the way of the legislature doing their job. The problem is that the legislators end up supporting or opposing what ever the ballot initaitive is in question in the first place. But, read it for a laugh:
Reining in citizen initiatives
Voters have created a complicated and conflicting web of spending requirements and tax limitations. They have told the state to borrow billions for new programs without any plan for repaying the loans.
Last week's special election embodied the problem. Voters refused to reallocate money they had previously ordered spent on mental health and children's programs, but they also refused to raise revenues with tax increases and a plan to borrow against the lottery.
Uh, hello? In reference to the children's programs initiative, Proposition 10, it was an increase in the cigarette tax to specifically fund children's programs. Now, I voted against the measure because of opposition to taxes on principle. But, it should be noted that this was a baby not only of actor/director Rob Reiner of "All In The Family" fame, but of the current California governor, Benedict Arnold. And the reason that voters have to end up voting on these kind of measures is because the damn state legislature does not do the heavy work in the first place.
The next "solution" has been tried, the Rainy Day fund. It means that the state has to have a surplus and allocate a portion to this fund. And, it has been done in the past, first under former governor, George Deukmejian. This does make sense.
The last of the five "solutions" is an intriguing one. It is having actual oversight on every bit of money in the state budget and the programs they fund.
Getting some real oversight
Other states keep track of how well every program is functioning, requiring department heads to meet a strict list of "performance standards" or risk losing money. California has resisted this for years.
Hmm, I wonder why California has resisted this seemingly sane approach for years? Could it be that an oversight board would maybe, possibly find waste and inefficiency? And, could this be because the state employee labor unions have been resistant? I wished that the article would have addressed that aspect of the oversight issue.
But overall, the "solutions" proposed in this article would eventually lead to a Democrat-dominated legislature to raise taxes and increase the size of government and pay off their benefactors. And it would be a disaster for the citizens of California.