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Crunch affects more than schools

Time to halt big government insanity is now.

Posted: April 13, 2008 12:49 a.m.
Updated: June 14, 2008 5:02 a.m.
hen my family moved from Tennessee to California, more than loved ones were left behind. My uncle, a Vanderbilt alum, parted with his corporate expense account and corner-office salary. My aunt, a master's-degree graduate from the National Institutes of Health, left behind the leverage of a upwardly mobile medical career.

And with their jobs, so went the means that afforded the material trappings that often define the American dream. The name of the game became downsizing. Instead of depleting their savings and living off the borrowed time of credit cards as the means for furnishing a now-unaffordable lifestyle, my family sided with common sense and cut back spending to close their financial gap. And lo and behold, it worked.

Common sense is funny that way.

Appeal to common sense
Certainly, the average Santa Clarita household would have done the same thing. Appealing to common sense, we realize that when there is a drop in household income, there must be a corresponding decrease in household expenditures; otherwise, you will have a deepening household deficit. That deficit would put a crunch on normal bill-paying and education-spending for your children. And with gas prices and medical costs being what they are, that crunch would become a hell.

Yet many in Santa Clarita are telling Sacramento to ignore common sense by continuing to spend (on us, at least) what it does not have and will not have in the near future. Rather than household common sense, that double-talk is urging capital insanity for cash-strapped Sacramento.

As of Jan. 3, California became home to the nation's highest number of mortgage foreclosures. The California Office Director of the Center for Responsible Lending labeled California "the epicenter of the national foreclosure crisis." UCLA economist Jerry Nickelsburg forecasts that California will lose $25 billion in personal income by the end of 2008 and $630 billion in property value because of the housing crisis.

Add to that California's "double-whammy," as called by UCLA Anderson Forecasts economists, of job losses in the financial activities and construction sectors and you have a crippling loss of tax revenue that wiped out this past August's state budget reserve of $4.4 billion and generated a current $3.3 billion shortfall that could deepen to $14.5 billion by 2009. Bottom line, California is suffering from a ballooning budgetary aneurysm. In household terms, you and I would be in Chapter 13.

But as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget attempts to combat this crisis, its gravity seems to be lost on many in Santa Clarita because the anyone-but-us cry fails to realize that something drastic has to be done, and that ours is not the only proposed pain.

From superintendents to parents, Santa Clarita Valley school districts have voiced considerable and negligent dismay at the impact that the governor's proposed 10 percent across-the-board budgetary cuts will have on our schools. And on the one hand, some dismay is justified.

The $4.4 billion reductions in K-12 state funding have already caused teacher layoffs and hiring and salary stagnations in our schools. That will lead to enlarged class sizes, decreased teacher-to-student attention, and heavier work loads for teachers.

In that equation, students suffer first. For a family-oriented community like ours, that raises our ire. Yet I doubt that many have given thought to the impact that the proposed cuts will have on others in and outside the SCV because the anger lacks acknowledgment that suffering will exist outside our school districts. I humbly liken it to the self-centered frustration of a special interest group that has decried the plight of only their situation.

It will alarm many to discover that the $246.6 million reduction in Health and Human Services funding will eliminate $11 million from AIDS programs, partially by shrinking support for AIDS education and counseling. It will cancel certain Medi-Cal optional benefits for optical and speech therapy for stroke victims from California's "most vulnerable populations" and forego supplemental Social Security cost-of-living increases for the poor and aged.

The $1.1 billion that could be reduced from Corrections and Rehabilitations will give early release and relaxed parole for approximately 22,000 "non-serious" criminals. I could go on, but you get the picture.

The pain of reducing $358 million from special education funding knows the pain of telling an AIDS patient that his counseling has been eliminated. Our schools will suffer, but just as millions outside our schools will.

Next man's burden
A friend told me that SCV's outcry is not selfish but focused on what matters most to Santa Clarita: our children's education.

Understandable, but as we sit within the comfortable and insulated walls of an increasingly affluent community that we all enjoy, remember that our troubles are never ours alone and are sometimes lighter than the next man's burden. Also, our potential $14.5 billion shortfall proves that government cannot be all things to all men, just as my income cannot supply all the wants of my heart. Big government insanity must be halted somewhere, and the time is now.

Andre Hollings is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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