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Paul Strickland: Local leaders take budget concerns to Sacramento

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: April 10, 2009 12:35 a.m.
Updated: April 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Carl and Jeri Seratti Goldman's fourth annual KHTS-AM 1220 Sacramento Road Trip March 23-24 was indeed a huge success. I don't know which I enjoyed more, California Assemblyman Cameron Smyth's well-planned program of legislative speakers or the bonding necessitated by a six-hour bus ride with 70 Santa Claritans. It's a toss-up.

Frankly, I now know more than I really care to know about a lot of local folks. I don't know enough, however, about how our state legislators plan to find an adequate resolution for the ongoing governmental dilemma in our state capital.

Democrats, who have been unwilling to keep spending in the same ballpark with revenue, have led the state legislature for many years. Their unquenchable thirst for more and more costly mandate-laden programs has been dependent on the taxpayers' largesse. With that never-ending treasure trove suddenly bankrupt and depleted because of vast numbers of private sector workers losing their jobs, the entire bloated system of state government is about to implode. The chickens have indeed come home to roost. Whatever shall we do?

The Democrat-led California state legislature did what they often do. They raised taxes. They passed a $12.5 billion tax increase just seven weeks ago. It began affecting California taxpayers April 1.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, who voted against the tax increase, wrote an article in The Signal on March 29. Said Smyth: "Now just a month after saddling Californians with the largest tax increase in the history of the United States, legislative Democrats are proposing new taxes on everything from drivers' licenses to plastic bags. Raising taxes during tough economic times was a bad idea when it was done last month, and it continues to be the wrong solution to the state's economic troubles. Across the state, families are struggling to make ends meet by tightening their budgets and eliminating unnecessary expenses."

I was stunned to read another article in April 7's paper by a local Democrat who belittled Assemblyman Smyth's column. The writer inferred that everyone agrees that overspending by the state legislature is a problem, but Republicans do not provide solutions.

Clearly, I disagree with that assessment.

Many Democrats view spending not as a problem but as a solution to problems, especially when it comes to social programs they deem to be essential. Their resolution to overspending is to raise taxes to pay for the spending they have imposed upon the taxpayers. Their plan is always the same, no matter how it is packaged. On the other hand, Republicans, including Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, call for an end to increased spending, and for the elimination of existing fraud, waste and duplication.

It is true that some Democrats recognize the need to curb additional spending, yet most of their state legislative leaders apparently lack the wherewithal to cut existing duplicative and non-essential programs. They would rather increase taxes in order to keep this inept system functioning than try to actually reduce the size and scope of government itself.

In Sacramento, the hue and cry discussed in all political circles was the threat to raise workers' compensation premiums by 24.4 percent because of soaring medical costs.

Since California employers are required to buy insurance to cover medical bills and disability benefits for their employees, any potential tax increase threatens to put them out of business. This proposed increase comes at a time when the economy is tanking, and employers are also faced with higher income tax and state sales taxes. Many businesses and nonprofit organizations would be forced to either close their doors or move out of the state of California.

Another issue bandied about was a proposal to impose a 40-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline. Add that to the existing per-gallon federal and state taxes plus the increased California state sales taxes. Yeah, right! Try getting re-elected when you have voted for such a whopping tax increase. Anyone who previously blamed Big Oil for high gasoline prices at the pump now knows that Big Government is the real culprit.

The rumors of potential tax increases did not go over well with our group of visitors from Santa Clarita. Within our contingency were several elected school board and administrative officials, elected water board representatives, city officials and many members of the chamber of commerce, as well as community leaders and activists.

Smyth was an excellent host. He selected a superb group of state assemblymen, state senators, and executive staff members to meet with us. We were also provided with tours of the state senate and assembly chambers as well as of the capital's library.

Monday evening Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, Senator George Runner, Senator Tony Strickland and Smyth gave welcoming remarks and briefed us on the state of the budget. Tuesday's speakers included Republican Assemblymen Roger Niello and Nathan Fletcher and Democratic Assemblymen Mike Eng and Hector De la Torre, as well as remarks from Sen. Runner and Strickland.

Our group's intent was to demonstrate to state lawmakers the need to address our local concerns regarding the state budget.

Generally, our issues involve education, water and transportation. Our united focus was to insure that state dollars coming to Santa Clarita would be given with few strings and no unnecessary mandates.

All things considered, the Sacramento road trip was an enormous success. The bus ride back to Santa Clarita was spent sharing information, planning future meetings, and just plain bus-bonding once more.

Paul B. Strickland Sr. is a resident of Santa Clarita. "Right Here, Right Now" appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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