Community Columns

Our budget should be balanced

I appreciate the constructive comments in your Aug. 3 editorial, "We urge Jeff Denham to vote for state budget," which discussed the budget stalemate. However, I must respectfully disagree with your conclusion that the only course of action is to vote for the Assembly's proposed budget.

While no budget is ever perfect, there are some basic requirements that should always be adhered to; the most important being that it is balanced.

Like the family checkbook, a state budget should never spend more money than it takes in. It's just simple economics and a California constitutional obligation.

For several years, the state has gotten away with having an unbalanced budget by using gimmicks and borrowing. These tactics are comparable to a family paying bills late and getting new credit cards to pay off the old cards. While it temporarily helps, in the long term it creates even more debt. That's what has happened to California.

The proposed budget the Assembly passed in the dead of the night has several problems:

It's unbalanced. The Assembly was hoping the Senate would overlook this small detail and lob the budget onto the governor's desk so he could trim out $700 million to balance it. Two problems: First, the governor will not publicly tell us what he will trim to cover the $700 million deficit. This governor, as some before him, has often used fiscal gimmicks to avoid making cuts; we cannot afford for him to do this again. Second, the deficit in this proposed budget might actually be approaching $5 billion rather than just $700 million. This has to do with fiscal gimmicks such as overestimating the amount coming in from tribal gambling compacts and leaving out bills we know will come due, such as the higher pay for corrections officers.

Pork-laden trailer bills. Read Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters' commentary of July 29 ("Bills the Legislature sneaks into budget at last minute," Page B-6) and you'll know exactly what I mean. Basically, trailer bills have become Christmas trees for special interest groups. Hollywood movie studios, airline companies, trial lawyers and radical environmentalists come out smelling like roses in this proposed budget — unfortunately, it's at taxpayer expense.

Teacher tax credit repealed. While the Assembly's proposed budget gives money to special interest groups, it would repeal the tax credit for teachers who, out of their own pockets, buy supplies for children to use in classrooms. I strongly support keeping this tax credit and say shame on Assembly Democrats for throwing teachers overboard in favor of their Hollywood friends.

A better approach than passing the Assembly's hopelessly out-of-balance, pork-laden budget:

Temporary bill-paying authority. On Aug. 1, I offered an amendment to allow payments to be made for vital services during the stalemate. Senate Democrats killed the amendment and are trying to hold health facilities, local governments and schools hostage. The Senate should reconvene immediately and pass this amendment.

Stop playing "Chicken Little." The governor and his Cabinet members are running around saying "The sky is falling!" because we don't have a budget. Nonsense. The state has gone through this before and we will survive. Instead of photo-ops and theatrics by the governor and the Democrats, he should call a special session to force the Senate and Assembly back into session.

Around-the-clock negotiations. The four legislative leaders should immediately come back to Sacramento and negotiate until they reach a balanced budget that two thirds of each house will support.

The Assembly's proposed budget only intensifies California's fiscal problems. The people of California deserve better.

Denham represents the 12th SenateDistrict, including Merced and partsof Madera, San Benito and Stanislauscounties.