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Sacramento actors turning California into ‘B’ grade state

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POSTED April 26, 2010 12:23 a.m.
Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t the only actor in Sacramento.

There are actually 120 of them “acting” as leaders of California in both houses of the legislature.

And judging by what is about to come down in San Joaquin County - as well as the 57 other counties - the time has come to end reruns this November and look for virtually anyone else. Based on the mess they’ve managed to get California in, it would be difficult to envision someone doing a worse job.

San Joaquin County last year slashed the ranks of prosecutors by 12 due to budget constraints. Now District Attorney James Willett may have to cut another nine attorneys and two dozen others including 13 investigators. It isn’t much better at the San Joaquin Public Defenders’ Office where a third of the attorneys may be history.

Much of the financial crisis facing local government can be blamed on the one-two punch of The Great Recession coupled with the foreclosure meltdown. But it was made worse because counties such as San Joaquin cut last year while the state hijacked local money and kept spending.

The California Legislature - which mandates a ton of programs on counties including welfare, health services, and the court system and then fails to fully fund their edicts - is already trying to map out ways to take even more local revenue this year instead of making the hard decisions needed to handle a $20 billion state budget deficit.

If you don’t think state senators and assembly members are doing nothing more than acting as if they are leading instead of making the hard decisions that cities, counties and school district are making consider this: The State of California hired more than 21,000 workers in 2009.

That’s right. They hired 21,000 plus workers. The state - which now has 237,384 workers - had a number of people retire but they filled the positions as well as hired for new positions.

Local jurisdictions such as schools, counties and cities slashed their staffs on average from 10 to 20 percent. The cutbacks in police and other services would have been less severe if the state hadn’t hijacked hundreds of millions of local revenue up and down the state so they could keep bureaucrats on the job. So how well did the state do in staff cutbacks in 2009? They didn’t even manage a half of one percent. That would be the equivalent of Manteca only eliminating two positions instead of the nearly 60 jobs that went to the wayside through retirement, attrition, layoffs, and simply rethinking how to do things so positions could be left unfilled to save money.

Of course, if Manteca did that that then they’d have another $5 million or so in red ink starting them in the face on top of $3.8 million they have to cut to balance the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

California’s leaders act like they are leading by playing shell games that include advance collection of taxes from next year, borrowing, and outright swiping of money from local jurisdictions. They also have delayed payment to schools and a host of other financial sins.

What do you think will happen now in San Joaquin County with even less prosecutors and public defenders? It certainly will be more difficult to get criminals off the streets. And it will be even more scary if the California Legislature plays another “woe is me” routine and rolls over again for state employee groups who have them by the throat thanks to politicians living off campaign contributions.

Blame Schwarzenegger all you want but the mess in Sacramento and how it is hurting local efforts to provide basic services is the direct result of years of pandering to special interests and outright incompetency in the California Legislature.

It’s time to pull the plug on the actors before they pull the plug on California.

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