Last week, Governor Brown’s statewide budget tour stopped
in my hometown of Santa Clarita.  While a visit from the Governor would
naturally be a big deal in our community, last Thursday’s visit became the
focus of statewide attention as I was the first Republican legislator to accept
his invitation to attend the forum.  My decision to join Governor Brown at
Hart High School was based on my belief that having such a forum afforded me
the opportunity to hear first-hand the Governor’s proposal, as well as how it
would be received by my constituents.   

I also want to thank the Governor for his willingness to
have a frank, honest, discussion about the very real crisis we face in
California His understanding that fundamental, long-term changes are also
necessary for the stability of our great state is a viewpoint I share. 

Based on the reports of previous hearings, I was
skeptical about who would participate and I expected most of them to be
supportive of the Governor’s tax increases. So, once I decided to attend,
we worked with the Governor’s office to ensure invitations went out to people
who truly represented a cross-section of the community.  Although the meeting focused on education and
law enforcement, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, Association of
Realtors, Building Industry Association, and several small business owners also
chose to attend.

While the audience had varying ideas of how to solve the
budget crisis, one thing all the stories shared was an overwhelming frustration
with what is happening in Sacramento.  While many of them are relying on
the additional revenue that tax increases would bring, they also recognize that
California’s spending plan is fundamentally flawed.  Additionally, I was
impressed that Governor Brown specifically asked to hear from people who
disagreed with his proposal.  Members of the audience spoke out about the
strain that illegal immigration and public employee pensions place on our
budget, and the Governor engaged with them in a respectful and honest
way.  Several of the school board members also asked for more flexibility
from the state – the fewer constraints placed by Sacramento the better, as it
frees the districts to manage their money to best meet the needs of their

Despite the very real impacts the current budget
situation has on Californians, I remain unconvinced that tax increases will
solve our fiscal crisis.  I look at California’s staggering unemployment
rate and the continual relocation of businesses, and I just don’t see how
increasing taxes will assist the private sector in the job creation necessary
to drive our economy. 

Last month the legislature took the painful but necessary
step in cutting over $13 billion from the state budget, reducing the deficit
roughly in half.  But a recent poll in the Los Angeles Times clearly
showed that before the legislature asks for tax increases, more spending
reductions are necessary.  This isn’t the first time the voters have taken
that position. In 2009, the Legislature passed a temporary two-year tax
increase to "solve" our budget deficit.  As part of the deal, voters were
asked to extend them an additional two years with explicit details of what would
happen if they were not.  The result: a majority of voters in every county
of California said "no".

Framing the budget debate as an either/or decision
between taxes and cuts is too simplistic of an approach.  We have to make
substantial reforms to public employee pensions, implement a strict spending
cap, and change the way California spends money.  If we can find ways to
spend our money more efficiently, then we can deliver the same level of service
for less money, which will go a long way towards mitigating the impact of the
cuts we have to make.  The bottom line, however, is that further spending
reductions are going to be a major part of any responsible budget
solution.  Republicans and Democrats may differ on where those cuts should
come from, but the fact is that real cuts to state spending are
necessary.  That’s something Governor Brown and I seem to agree on.