Friday, April 22, 2011

Which Side in California's Budget Debate is More Clueless?

Yesterday brought us town hall-style events featuring both sides of the budget crisis in California; which is to say, two crowds got to waste their time listening to people who have no grasp of the underlying problem.

One side speaks.

In one corner, we had Jerry Brown embarking on another leg of his statewide tour, selling his tax extension proposal to another blue-collar inland community. Yesterday he appeared with Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth in the city of Santa Clarita, in northern Los Angeles County. There's not much to report about the event: Brown continued to push for five-year tax extensions, Smyth said little but was told by a member of the crowd that voting for the extensions wouldn't hurt him politically, and in general the crowd voiced frustration with both sides. To read the Sacramento Bee report we linked above, you'd think this was just a question of getting everyone to put their silly partisanship aside and work together "for the people".

On the other hand, a similar event in Riverside featuring three Republican lawmakers wasn't much better. While state Party Chair Tom del Baccaro, Assemblyman Brian Nestande from Palm Desert, and Councilwoman Melissa Melendez from Lake Elsinore deserve credit for noting that the long-term solution to California's regular budget shortfalls is to "lower taxes, relax business regulation and grow the economy overall", they still missed the point enough for us to remember that they're still bureaucrats. According to del Baccaro, the question is still "what's the best way to raise revenues": the three speakers spent the evening making the same tired Laffer-curve argument that lower taxes will lead to increased revenues, which will mean more dollars for education and other social services that people like getting for "free".

So there you have it: no one with any say in how the budget will be balanced seems to realize that California has a spending problem. We're right there with the Republicans in Riverside in calling for lower taxes and fewer regulations on business, but even they seem to be suggesting that the state doesn't need to sacrifice its bloated public pensions, its corruption, its lavish perks and salaries for legislators and other state workers, its out-of-control education spending, the costs of enforcing its endless regulations on business and other private choices, or its subsidies to green technology. And that's what California's real problem is. So long as this state sees no limit to its role in governing every aspect of the lives of California citizens, it will never have enough revenue for long-term budget stability.


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