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Ray Haynes

Everything That is Wrong With the Budget, Part 4

In my previous discussions on the budget, I pointed out that the budget has numerous problems, and we haven’t even gotten to the details:

(1) The budget for the current and predictions for future year budgets are based on unstable revenue;
(2) The spending increases in the current budget fix in spending patterns that are unsustainable in the future; and
(3) The Legislature completely failed to comply with the budget deadlines, and in their tardiness, they didn’t fix the real problems in the budget.

We are now faced with a fake budget, enacted at a fake time, with fake revenue estimates. The time bomb is ticking. All of this might be excusable if the budget actually solved the state’s problems, but it doesn’t. It continues legislative priorities that don’t solve the real problems of the state of California. One of my observations during my time, as I saw the budgets take shape, was that Democrats always wanted to spend more on health, welfare, and education, and Republicans wanted to spend more on public safety and transportation. The compromise, when Republicans mattered, was to raise spending on everything. Now that Republicans don’t matter, Democrats are taking the money they used to spend on public safety and transportation, and transferring it all to health, welfare and education. To the extent they spend any money on transportation, they increase the tax on gasoline. Their agenda for public safety is to close down prisons, that is, let bad guys go and never arrest or charge them again, so you and I pay the cost of crime, and then let the forests burn.

Here are examples of their messed up priorities:

(a) Expanding the California Food Assistance Program to illegals, that is, if you break our laws by getting into this country illegally, the state of California will give you free food.
(b) Requiring counties to collectively bargain with In-Home Supportive Services Unions (mainly the SEIU). So it doesn’t matter to the state whether those in need of in home services (mainly health care for seniors), or whether the counties are doing a good job of providing those services now. The state mandates the counties deal with the unions, regardless of the impact of that policy on service recipients;
(c) Another expansion of welfare. In the 1990’s, Governor Wilson put a number of restrictions on welfare recipients ability to collect government money and sit at home and have kids. He imposed real work requirements, a maximum family grant (which means it didn’t matter how many kids you have, you get only get so much welfare), life time limits on welfare, and things that were intended to incentivize work over government aid. Democrats in the Legislature have spent years getting rid of those requirements as well as increasing the basic grant, resulting in less accountability on the part of the recipients and steadily increases costs, due to the increasing number of eligible recipients and increased payments to existing recipients. When added to the increased costs for free housing, free utilities and free food, the cost increases will expand year over year. All of the changes that were pushing people to work are now gone. Why work when the government lets you live essentially rent and utility free, while the government pays for your food and gives you a stipend as well;
(d) Many of the payments that were frozen or reduced during the last budget crisis are being restored. In addition, the state is increasing rates to service providers. Both of these increases are a huge mistake. The state is close to another budget crisis, it is way too early to start giving away more money;
(e) There are numerous fee increases salted throughout the budget. After a record spending increase over the last ten years, it still seems as though the state government still believes that it doesn’t have enough money, so it has to snag it from where ever they can, so long as they don’t need Republican votes to raise taxes;
(f) It never ceases to amaze me how, despite the fact that state employees, for all practical purposes, can’t be fired, have Cadillac health care and retirement benefits, and receives wages above those paid in the private sector for the same work, the state continues to increase their wages and benefits. Once again, it doesn’t matter how good a job they are doing, whether they are actually delivering the promised service in a timely and/or efficient manner (read: who likes going to the DMV) or whether the employee is actually needed or not (state government seems utterly unaffected by the increase in the efficiency afforded by better technology). Taxpayers continually pay more and get less service. EDD, DMV, and the thousands of other state agencies get worse and cost us more. If they were in the private sector, they would have been on welfare long ago. At least there, they would probably produce more and cost less than they do on the state payroll; and
(g) There is one set of the state’s population that is seeing a reduction in the amount they have to pay to the government…criminals. The state is implementing a “ability to pay” test when assessing a fine for criminal behavior. If you own your own business, employ people, and contribute to the operation of government through taxes, you pay more. If you are a criminal, who thumbs his or her nose at the rest of us, you pay less, because, of course, it is unfair to make you pay for your criminal behavior. Why would we expect that as a society? Even better for the criminals, we are going to let you out of prison, even if you are a violent felon, and pay for your transition to the next phase of your criminal career.

Aren’t you glad the California state government is doing all these great things? Makes you want to run right out and pay more taxes.