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By Senator Denise Ducheny
Chair, Senate Budget Committee


“Thoughtless slashing would eliminate a whole series of State investments that are necessary to our recovery and to providing a sound base for our future prosperity.”


August 24, 2010 (Sacramento) -- In the wake of the global economic turmoil of the past few years, there are signs California’s economy has hit bottom and is beginning to recover. While our recovery is fragile, and it will take time to make up ground lost to the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, California is still the 8th largest economy in the world. California’s future is still bright--if we can sustain ourselves in the short term.

Californians are understandably frustrated. We make difficult choices everyday to keep our family budgets under control; our elected representatives appear unable to make the tough choices needed to address our on-going State budget crisis. Instead of explaining the difficult choices, some fuel the frustration by simplifying the issues to popular sounding soundbites, ignoring factual analysis of the choices, and trying to pretend like it is easy to solve by just “reducing government spending.” These soundbites ignore the reality that thoughtless slashing would eliminate a whole series of State investments that are necessary to our recovery and to providing a sound base for our future prosperity.


“We simply can’t afford it,” they say. But, what we cannot afford is to further reduce spending on K-12 education, already 17% below what we were investing 3 years ago in each student. What we cannot afford is to restrict access to the universities that train our workforce of the future to compete in the global economy.


We cannot afford to allow our infrastructure to continue to deteriorate so businesses have to spend more to get their goods to market nor to make it harder and longer for new businesses to get the permits they need to employ Californians and generate wealth.


We cannot afford to eliminate the CalWorks program which since 1997 has assisted thousands of families to move from dependency on public assistance to becoming taxpaying workers and cut the number of welfare recipients in this state in half. We cannot afford to forego the $4.5 billion in federal matching funds that accompanies that State investment, every penny of which families use to support California businesses by paying rent, and buying groceries, clothes, school supplies and other necessities. We cannot afford to completely eliminate, as the Governor proposes, support for child care programs that allow thousands of working parents to go to work everyday, and destroy the thousands of small businesses who provide that service.


Over the past 50 years, we Californians have worked together to build a state with a thriving economy, great schools, parks and roads. Our investments paid off in quality of life for every Californian. But now that great quality of life is at risk. We cannot sustain a first-world economy with the third-world services envisioned in the Governor’s budget. His budget proposals shift billions of dollars of costs to local taxpayers, leave billions of our federal tax dollars on the table rather than in the California economy, and threaten the health and safety of millions of California businesses and families. His proposals represent nothing short of throwing in the towel on the California dream.


At a time of record unemployment, the Governor’s budget would cost the state some 430,000 jobs in the private sector, in our local governments, and in our schools. Who’s going to help the businesses that will close when the poor are too poor to participate in our economy and their teacher, nurse, firefighter and police customers are laid off? Who is going to keep our communities safe, teach our children, or provide health care to the public? How will we get our products to market if our highway system falls into complete disrepair?


Leadership is not about soundbites. It’s about finding solutions to tough problems.


That is why Democrats in the Legislature have united to propose multiple responsible alternatives to the Governor’s budget.


Our proposals recognize the need to hold the line on state spending, but do not try to shift those costs to counties and neighborhood streets. They also recognize that we are all in this together. When our State budget has shrunk by almost 20% since 2007, we cannot afford to implement scheduled new tax breaks for our largest, wealthiest corporations.


In order to preserve a foundation for future prosperity we must all take some responsibility to maintain core government functions. One alternative from the Senate would extend taxes we already pay by two years. Recently, Democrats in the Legislature proposed another alternative to trade federally deductible taxes, like property and income taxes, for a significant sales tax cut, stimulating local purchases.


Under the Democratic proposal revenues would comprise approximately $4 billion of the $19 billion solution to our current crisis, preventing fatal dismantling of public education, public safety, public health and consumer and environmental protection programs.


Resolving our budget problems will not be easy, but it is made harder by those who avoid the reality of the decisions that face us. Soundbites ignore the harsh reality of the decisions we must make. Rhetoric doesn’t lessen the impact of those decisions on real people, real California businesses and the need to renew our California Dream.


Senator Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego) represents the 40th State Senate district and chairs the Senate Budget Committee. The opinions expressed in this editorial reflect the views of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.

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