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It's time to hold legislators accountable

Posted: May 11, 2008 4:47 p.m.
Updated: July 12, 2008 5:04 a.m.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
- George Santayana (1863-1952), U.S. philosopher and poet

A flat-rate income tax for all Californians. A two-year spending plan, instead of the yearly budget fracas. Increases in taxes and user fees. A spending cap linked to California's population growth and inflation. A state government savings account.

These are just some of the ideas being bandied about in Sacramento and elsewhere in California as the state budget deficit steadily climbs.

How deep in the hole is California now? The latest estimates put the figure at a staggering $20 billion. But the amount increases weekly.

Meanwhile, here in the Santa Clarita Valley, the William S. Hart Union High School District board has slashed 44 positions, including 30 instructional resource assistants who work one-on-one with special-education students to ensure their success in school - and thus in life.

While the district is moving ahead with a reorganization plan for special ed that should help soften the blow, it's appalling that school board members have to single out an educational program for cuts - all because our state legislators can't see further ahead than 12 months at a time.

California has long undergone boom-and-bust financial cycles; it's inconceivable that any newly elected member of the state Senate or Assembly could arrive in Sacramento not knowing this fact.

Yet every year, the Legislature fashions a short-sighted spending plan that is usually late and always predicated on what's happening in the economy now, not what will happen down the road a few years - even though future economic trends are patently foreseeable.

All one has to do is look at the state's financial history.

Unfortunately, the old adage that those who will not remember and learn from history are doomed to repeat it applies not just to our legislators, but to those of us who sent them to Sacramento.

And to our special-needs children.

In the weeks ahead, the Legislature will grapple with a fiscal year 2008-09 budget, facing the Herculean task of closing that $20 billion spending gap. In these desperate times, extreme measures will be considered - as they never would be considered during the state's "boom" times.

In addition, state budget shortsightedness will be an issue in the upcoming June and November elections, as Californians choose new state legislators or return their representatives to Sacramento.

We at The Signal pledge to keep our readers informed of the state budget debates through news coverage and Opinion-page columns.

Whether it's a flat-rate income tax (as outlined by Sacramento columnist Daniel Weintraub in Friday's Signal) or other proposed solutions, we encourage our readers to learn about the issues and let their voices be heard.

All Californians have a vested interest in ensuring that the state finally learns something from the irresponsible spending of its past.


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