Bankruptcy Bonds

Writer and Political Commentator

In 2003, we kicked Governor Gray Davis out of office for fiscal
irresponsibility, holding him personally responsible for running up a
$15 billion budget deficit.

In 2004, at the urging of the now-invisible Governor Schwarzenegger,
we approved Prop 57, the 15-billion-dollar Economic Recovery Bond
Act, because we believed the promise that it would be the last of the
state budget’s red ink.

This year, while “working on” the budget in a time of extraordinary
economic crisis, our Sacramento Democrats replied with a single,
uncompromising, unthinking answer in a shrill lemming/sheep hybrid of
a voice – “No program cuts!” Republicans, matching them for mindless
lockstep politics, screamed back, “No new taxes!”

We waited 85 days for our elected officials to reduce program
expenditures and increase revenue (i.e., cut spending and raise
taxes) to cover a budget shortfall close to $20 billion dollars.
Instead, they begged, borrowed and stole from future budgets, played
the final couple of accounting games available to them and pushed the
difficult decisions into the future.

In summary, here’s our current fiscal situation: We have a completely
ineffective legislature and governor in Sacramento, billions of
dollars in outstanding bonds, a budget that only passed because we
played about $15 billion dollars’ worth of games, have more than $100
billion dollars of required infrastructure repairs (not even counting
necessary new construction), a teachers’ retirement system that is
$20 billion in the hole, $26 billion in unfunded long-term liability
at CalPers (California Public Employees’ Retirement System) and we’re
looking at close to a $50 billion shortfall in state retirees’ health
benefits.

It’s a bleak financial picture, for even the most optimistic among us.

I share all of this with you, not to ruin your morning, but because
we have an election coming up on November 4th. On that date, we are
being asked to borrow billions of additional dollars that we cannot
afford, with no idea or plan on how to pay it all back.

Prop 1 – High Speed Rail Bonds. Total estimated cost to the state:
$20 billion dollars.

Prop 3 – Children’s Hospital Bond Act. Total estimated cost to the
state: $2 billion dollars.

Prop 10 – Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy Bonds. Total
estimated cost to the state: $10 billion dollars.

Prop 12 – Veterans Bond Act of 2008. Total estimated cost to the
state: $2 billion dollars.

Each of the initiatives has its supporters. It’s hard to say no to
children’s hospitals and vets. Adding a high-speed rail system would
be a great step in the right direction of mass transportation.
However, these four bond issues would add over $30 billion dollars in
new debt – at a time when we can’t make our current payments.

We need to say no, we need to vote no, on these bond issues. Since
those we elect are completely irresponsible with our money, we have
to begin to take responsibility for it ourselves. This is the time to
cut programs, raise new revenue and get our fiscal house in order.
It’s going to be hard enough to do with situation we are currently
in, much less adding another $30 billion dollars or so in new debt to
the problem.

If you want to vote yes on something, vote yes on Prop 11. This
simple bill will take redistricting out of the hands of selfish and
greedy legislators and give us a chance to have fair districts and
elect moderates from both parties. If we continue to send the same
partisan fanatics to Sacramento; approve billions of dollars in bonds
every time we see the words “children,” “education,” “public safety”
and “vets” in the title; ignore the realities of unfunded pensions
and healthcare; and don’t accept the very real reality that the
nation is in financial crisis – then we will go bankrupt. There are
no silver bullets and no magical solutions to the immense problem
that through commission and omission we have allowed to balloon
almost beyond comprehension.

Let’s begin doing the hard work that Sacramento refuses to do. Vote
no on spending billions of dollars we don’t have. Vote no on
Propositions 1, 3, 10 and 12. Let our voice be heard – no new
spending! At the same time, Vote yes on Prop 11 and again let our
voice be heard by every selfish, greedy, hyper-partisan politician,
and in every backroom where lobbyists and special interests are
carving up our wallets and playing with our children’s future. Loud
and clear: We’re taking our state back.

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