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Tony Strickland: The state of California is swimming in waste

Posted: July 15, 2009 9:09 p.m.
Updated: July 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

As the May 19 special election made clear, Californians are fed up with the budget shenanigans in Sacramento.

As I talk to folks throughout my district, they tell me they are tired of the ineptitude exhibited by politicians who would rather ignore government waste than enact reasonable and common sense reforms.

Let me assure you that I’m tired, too, of living the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” over and over again.

I have been warning for years that the practice of growing government and its programs without any sensible cost controls is unsustainable.

Now, California’s failure to rein in spending and streamline programs has led us to the brink of economic disaster.

Some might argue that we’ve already gone over.

Either way, it’s certainly clear that business cannot and should not continue as usual.

The buck stopped $26 billion ago. The big-government promise of a state that does everything for everyone is nothing but an IOU — and an expensive, destructive one at that.

Sacramento has become a place where the politics as usual rules.

Just keep the money coming, the government continues to say.

California has one of the highest personal income-tax rates and the highest sales-tax rate in the country.

Corporate taxes are way above the national average.

But what does the government have to show for the weighty sums it extracts from taxpayers?

Do we have better-educated children? Do we have roads and schools that are the envy of the country?


In fact, California languishes near the bottom of most national rankings.

The tax-and-spend crowd will argue the problem is we haven’t thrown enough money at these problems — but the evidence says otherwise.

Forty years ago, the state spent $1,240 for each resident in the state, in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars.

Now, we spend more than double that amount — $3,200 per person — and yet the results achieved by state government have declined significantly.

We can’t afford to wait for the bureaucrats to wake up and suddenly realize that government must be accountable to the people who support it.

To that end, some of my colleagues and I are pursuing common sense reforms that will help get people back to work.

That’s how you generate new revenues to support government programs: More working Californians equals more taxpayers.

I’ve found when I advocate that the government live within its means, I am inevitably accused of “slashing the safety net.”

The truth is, I want people who need services and assistance to get them.

Eliminating fraud, waste and abuse in our health and human services programs is as much about protecting California’s most vulnerable as it is about defending taxpayers.

These are precious, finite resources we are talking about.

Those who refuse to root out and crack down on the scammers and con artists who take advantage of the system are essentially limiting the number of families in legitimate need that can receive help.  

Currently, only 22 percent of CalWORKs recipients meet federal minimum work requirements.  

Without a 50-percent work-participation rate, California faces penalties that could cost upwards of $180 million this year.

In-home support services doubled in the past decade and cost about $5.4 billion annually.

It is forecast to grow by 8 percent a year through 2014. The program has virtually no oversight and is riddled with fraud. That’s outrageous.

It’s time to make sensible reforms to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently.  

California citizens demand and deserve that. It is time to stop the politics as usual and enact real reform.

It is time to end living the movie “Groundhog Day” over and over again.

Tony Strickland is a Republican senator for California’s 19th Senate District, which includes portions of the Santa Clarita Valley. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.



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