I am glad to see the governor is continuing to prioritize fiscal responsibility. Spending restraint has been our mantra for years. I appreciate that he borrowed heavily from Republican proposals like the rainy day reserve, paying off our debts and addressing unfunded liabilities like CalSTRS. The governor has been pretty responsible thus far with his budget plans, and any unanticipated tax revenues must go to reducing that mountain of debt.
Certainly the state budget is on more solid ground, and we are not debating spending cuts and more taxes. That’s because the voters approved a $45 billion tax increase that was intended for education and public safety. But it doesn’t look like that’s where all of the money is going.
This is not an austere budget by any stretch. The governor proposes to increase spending by $12 billion over last year’s budget. That’s probably more than we should be doing right now. One thing is clear – there is no budget ‘surplus’ in California. When you have identified over $340 billion of state debt and unfunded liabilities, as the Legislative Analyst has, you cannot claim to have surplus revenues. That debt load is nearly $9,000 for every single Californian.
One of our biggest concerns is that he is still pushing High Speed Rail when it’s obviously a massive boondoggle. This is going to be a drain on taxpayers for decades or longer. His call for ‘doubling down’ on it by using Cap & Trade funding is a losing proposition. The Legislative Analyst has said it is legally risky to link the bullet train to the cap-and-trade fund.
The use of Cap and Trade taxes for unjustified purposes will hurt our economy and result in more job losses. Our energy costs are already among the highest in the nation and we don’t need people paying an extra $1 a gallon for gas right now – or ever.
Finally, this budget fails to do enough to help counties deal with the ongoing problems from his public safety realignment. The evidence of a significant threat to our communities is mounting and we shouldn’t wait for a catastrophe before we fix it.
Overall, I think this is a pretty good budget plan and I hope the Democrats don’t undermine the effort to be fiscally responsible by adding billions in pork spending. Their special interests are ramping up the rhetoric for more spending increases, and it is an election year. Democrats operate Sacramento under one-party rule and it’s up to the governor to hold the line against his party. Otherwise, Democrats will bear full responsibility if they repeat their past mistakes and take California back into budget deficits.