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California governing gone bad

Posted: September 8, 2008 9:44 p.m.
Updated: November 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Governing California is serious stuff. California is home to more than 35 million people. Our state budget is over $110 billion.

We sustain two of the largest sub-economies in the nation - agriculture and film production. We have the best public university system in the country with the University of California and lead in technology, medicine and aerospace.

California was built on teamwork and finding ways to move ahead together. That's why we expect more out of our politicians in Sacramento.

We expect politicians to find common ground. The Democratic process means majority rule with minority rights. We expect logical problem solving, sharing responsibility, and serving the public good to trump partisan intransigence.

But conservative thinking lately is anything but open minded and solution oriented. Two local legislators, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth and State Sen. George Runner, pride themselves for not cooperating with the Democrats and label our majority "the enemy."

Smyth and Runner just don't get it. They realize that California is not a place where their narrowly held view will fix such a massive problem. But apparently dispensing blame, exhibiting stubbornness, and showing outright hatred for the majority party sells well in Santa Clarita.

If you have heard them speak, it is "liberal" this and "those Democrats" that.

They don't get it on large issues such as the budget. California is facing a $15.2 billion budget gap.

To compromise, California's Democratic legislative leaders have offered: Budget cuts to K-12 education - check.

Slashing assistance to the jobless due to a sour economy thanks to President Bush's conservative economic policies - check.

Steep cuts in spending for health care for children in poor families (the Reeps just love that one) - check.

Reduction in higher education support, putting our premier public university system further out of reach for Santa Clarita's middle class - check.

Budget reforms that Gov. Schwarzenegger has sought - check.

Let's see what Gov. Schwarzenegger has given up (and it's a big one).

Raising the financial burden on California's millionaires - uh, no check, but keep reading.

Temporarily raising the sales tax by one cent to fill part of the massive budget shortfall - check.
Now it's Cameron Smyth's and George Runner's turn:

Preventing massive budget cuts that will financially strain public schools in Santa Clarita - uh, no check.

Temporarily raising the sales tax by a measly penny, so we can all pitch in during this time when funding for our roads will be cut - uh, no check again.

Raising taxes on people like Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears, millionaires who can afford it - nope.
Protecting millionaires from having to pay taxes on their yachts - check!

Wow. The only thing they support, besides shoving us into further debt to fix this budget mess, is making sure millionaires don't pay their fair share on their million-dollar yachts. How many people do you know who actually own a yacht?

Another real solution to the budget impasse means taking measure in advance via institutional reform.

So, Cameron and George, what institutional reform have you proposed and passed that substantially reduces our obligations?

Tacking on a few "safety laws" every few years doesn't count, and just places a higher burden on us all anyway.

If they both are unwilling to pay for necessary services without raising taxes, which is ideal, as none of us want to pay more, or can't pass a bill cut our state overhead, and won't compromise, then nothing is going to get done.

It tells you a little bit about conservative priorities. Showcasing partisanship, i.e., an unwillingness to communicate and resolve issues, is getting old hat. It says even more about their lack of ability to govern this complex state.

This is the time to compromise- give and take. If conservatives like Smyth and Runner won't compromise - meaning, for example, a temporary tax increase to avoid devastation to local schools, police and other vital services - and won't meet the Democratic majority in the middle, then they're just a part of the problem up there.

So now we have our own little civil war that will shut down California in just a few months. Democrats have already compromised by approving massive budget cuts to social programs. Smyth and Runner only seem interested in not cooperating "with the enemy."

It's time Cameron Smyth and George Runner either represent all the people of Santa Clarita or step out of the way and let the grownups handle this job.

Jonathan Kraut is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Democratic Voices" appears Tuesdays in The Signal and rotates among several Democratic activists.


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