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Sacramento is now the bloviating capital of the nation

by Bob Morris, published

Bloviate: To discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner.  Seemingly, we could have floated several thousand hot air balloons on the emanations issuing forth from the legislative gasbags in Sacramento last week, during their pretend sessions aimed at passing a California budget. Because it was all just play acting, as both sides proposed plans they knew hadn’t the slightest chance of passing, and then adjourned until December.

Let us review the dismal history of the California budget negotiations. The State Constitution mandates that a budget must be passed by June 15, something which is routinely ignored in Sacramento. When the budget didn’t pass on time yet again this year, the legislators did what was only right, responsible, and adult. They adjourned for the entire month of July, presumably so they could think about a number of things, as long as none of them were the budget. Returning on August 1, presumably all fresh and perky after rounds of fundraisers, they then bloviated and stonewalled on the budget for the entire month of August, accomplished precisely nothing, then adjourned for three months.

Let me repeat that.

In the middle of a catastrophic budget crunch that gets worse every day, our legislators couldn’t even be bothered to stay in session. This is appallingly irresponsible. Both sides share equal blame. It appears that no one is attempting to find a real solution. Instead we have endless and tedious howling about how the other side is obstinate and refusing to compromise. Stop. You’re both right. Republicans say no new taxes because then businesses will leave the state. Well, businesses may also leave the state in disgust rather be forced to listen to more willful idiocy from Sacramento. They may also leave if services and infrastructure continue to deteriorate.  And don’t get me started on the latest of yet another rose-colored-glasses plan by Democrats to magically cut the deficit without raising taxes. They promise this can be easily done by raising this, lowering that, and then spreading it around so you won’t pay more except if you do. Gosh, that certainly seems plausible to me.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman wants to dock legislators' pay and expenses with no reimbursement for failing to pass a budget; however, Gov. Schwarzenegger says he’s been trying to do that for two years with no luck. Proposition 25 would do exactly that, but Whitman opposes its primary provision, which would lower the votes needed to pass a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.

Meanwhile, state vendors aren’t being paid, prospective college students have no clue if they will get Cal-Grants, health centers aren’t being funded, and the cost of debt for California continues to rise as its credit rating plummets. If you were a lender, you would be charging a higher interest rate to loan to the State of California too.

One of the biggest structural problems California has is the proposition system. It’s broken. No other state has anything remotely like it.  It needs to be replaced with something workable. That two-thirds vote to pass a budget comes from a proposition as do numerous mandates about how money must be spent. The greater the number of mandates the state has on spending, the less wiggle room is available to pass a budget in lean times like now. Worse, propositions often call for new amounts of money to be spent without explaining or detailing where the money will come from. This may have been feasible in prosperous economic times but is no longer so. Propositions need to explain where the money will come from.

The granddaddy of all the budget killers was of course Proposition 13, which severely throttled back state revenues because it artificially set a low limit on property taxes. When you pile a multitude of mandated spending, which was also set by propositions on top of that, then you inexorably arrive at the fiscal train wreck that California is facing now.  Ok, you can fire the heat-seeking missiles at me now for daring to challenge the sanctity of Prop 13, but the inescapable fact is that it started the state on the road to fiscal ruin by forcing revenues permanently lower.

The budget debacle is made worse by the willful kindergarteners masquerading as state legislators who refuse to compromise even slightly, preferring to allow the train wreck to continue for their own short-sighted political gain.

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