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Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Yes, it’s not January, but when the clock struck midnight on July 1 the state began the new fiscal year. That’s why so much has been said of late about the state budget; for the first time in a long time, the legislature actually has a budget in place by the start of the new budget year.

It was not a pretty thing getting here, and the budget is not a pretty thing to see.

First, the good news: Gov. Brown and the legislative Democrats finally agreed with Republicans about burdensome new taxes being unnecessary. Republicans have long counseled against the governor’s proposed almost $60 billion in new taxes because those taxes would have been a significant burden on hardworking families and a drag on our economy. The governor’s tax plan was precisely the wrong thing to do in the middle of a very fragile recovery. In addition, the tax plan would not have solved the state’s long term problems, as the governor’s budget did not even pretend to put those increased and burdensome taxes towards debt reduction or other worthwhile things. Instead, the taxes were actually just to fund a 27 percent increase in state spending.

But because the GOP in Sacramento stood unified against those misguided taxes, the average California family can expect over $1,000 in annual tax relief beginning today. Republicans are certain that you know better how to spend your money than do Jerry Brown and the legislative Democrats. We are also certain that extra money in the hands of families around the state, and not in the hands of Sacramento politicians, will spur economic growth, allowing businesses to hire, expand, make capital improvements, and otherwise create wealth for all of us.

Now the bad news: The policy choices the Democrats made. While it is true that the Democrats have passed an all-cuts budget on time and which does not continue with crippling taxes, they have done so by making some appallingly bad – and completely unnecessary – policy choices. For example, the Democrats’ budget threatens the public education system to an unprecedented degree. Under the deal negotiated between Gov. Brown and the legislative majority behind closed doors and without a single Republican involved, California’s public school classrooms could see an additional $1.5 billion in cuts if the Democrats’ rosy revenue projections fall short. Meanwhile, the UC and CSU systems could face $100 million more in unnecessary cuts under the same circumstances.

The governor/Democrat majority budget also goes forward with a reckless public safety “realignment” proposal which puts all Californians at substantially greater risk of becoming crime victims. This proposal threatens to turn loose tens of thousands or more violent criminals, yet prison costs will continue to escalate because of the governor’s recently negotiated union pay give aways.

These proposals are wholly unnecessary because the Republicans back in early May released our own road map towards a balanced budget which avoided each one of these policy blunders. We demonstrated that the budget could be balanced without further cuts to education and public safety. Sadly, the Democrats refused to follow that road map. Moreover, their budget contains at least two illegal fee increases, including a $12 increase to the vehicle registration fee. Frankly, this budget is as bad, as out of balance, and as dangerous to California’s fiscal health as the one Gov. Brown vetoed two weeks ago.

As with any new year, though, it is time for resolutions. I urge my Democrat colleagues to resolve in the coming fiscal year to join Republicans, rather than ignore us. Resolve to work with us in solving California’s problems, rather than repeat the mistakes that got the state into its current predicament. Resolve to pass legislation undoing much of the damage wrought by this new budget. If Sacramento Democrats can keep these new year’s resolutions, then, together, we will put Californians back to work, strengthen our business community, and put our fiscal house in order.