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Budget solution: Spend less money

Local Republicans want more fiscal restrictions

Posted: February 17, 2009 1:16 a.m.
Updated: February 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Democrats and Republicans who represent Santa Clarita Valley residents say the current state budget crisis is a large-scale version of over-extended home budgets and irresponsible decisions.

Although representatives in both camps differ on fine points for having arrived at a $42 billion budget gap, all agreed that over-spending and borrowing are counterproductive to balancing it.

"We consistently over-estimate our revenues and under-estimate our expenses," said State Senator George Runner, who is one of the key minority voters.

"It's the just the same as home budgets, if you go and do that you're going to get yourself into trouble. And, if there's a third factor, it's continuing to borrow to make up the difference."

Runner called for spending limits for legislators.

"It's the kind of discipline the legislature and the governor need to live within their means," he said.

On Monday, California lawmakers tried to approve a plan to stave off fiscal calamity, but they appeared late in the day to be one vote short of passage.

The state Senate and Assembly reconvened after a marathon weekend session that produced some last-minute fireworks but no agreement on the most contentious part of the plan - $14.4 billion in additional taxes.

Lawmakers were trying to pass a combination of spending cuts, tax hikes and additional borrowing negotiated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and party leaders. The Republican governor and legislative leaders from both parties warn that California faces insolvency unless the Legislature enacts a budget that was due about eight months ago.

Democrats support the budget plan, but it continues to fall short of votes because rank-and-file Republicans refuse to agree to higher taxes. Lawmakers believe there are enough GOP votes in the Assembly, but the Senate fell short by one.

Carole Lutness, a Democrat who ran against Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said that in addition to common-sense spending, what's needed to fix similar budget stalemates in the future is to rewrite parts of Proposition 13.

The proposition calls for a two-thirds majority to pass a budget which at 66 percent makes it difficult.

Because it's difficult to reach that degree of consensus, the budget defaults to a core of about 29 politicians in Sacramento.

"It's a strategic deficit in our constitution," she said. "With two-thirds required in the legislature to pass any budget, essentially what we're left with (when those numbers are not met) is the tyranny of the minority."

Lutness directs anyone interested in knowing more about the Republican view of the state economy to go the Web site set up by Americans For Tax Reform.

"Check out the quote by one Republican who wanted to shrink the size of government so small they could drown it in a bathtub," she said.

Lutness maintains that state money is desperately needed to fund essential services such as schools, hospitals and the clinics for the mentally ill.

Smyth said he sees a worrisome trend in the escalating amount of money the state government is handling.

"Continually, the government has been spending more money than it takes in," he said. "The state budget in 2003 was about $75 billion and now in 2008 it's $100 billion. The state budget has grown by 25 percent in just five years. That is totally un-sustainable growth."

We all share in the spending, he added.

"A lot of money has been constitutionally allocated through propositions process," he said.

Propositions, which California voters endorsed, guarantee certain expensive programs are funded.

"That money can't be shifted around - it's locked in."

Smyth is digging in on adopting conservative approach for future budgets.

"There are two key components, one is a spending cap that we're continuing to negotiate that limits the growth of government," Smyth said. "And, the second component is a stronger ‘Rainy Day Fund' with a reserve account set aside when we have surplus revenues."

Maria Gutzeit, a local Democrat recently re-elected to the Newhall County Water District as president, said the state budget mess is no different than a home budget.

"Individual households would never manage their budgets like they (state legislators) do," she said.


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