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State legislators believe they have license to spend

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POSTED June 22, 2010 2:48 a.m.
State prisoners could soon get hit by sending jobs off-shore.

There is a move afoot in the California Legislature to replace traditional license plates produced by inmates with electronic plates as a way to cut into the state’s $19 billion deficit.

The electronic plates would display the license plate number at all times. However, when the vehicle is stopped for more than four seconds at a red light or in traffic it would flash up an ad while the license plate number would be relegated to a smaller section of the plate.

State Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, is pushing the plan as a creative way to generate revenue and to keeping California on the cutting edge.

Remember, this is the same legislature that passed laws to outlaw the use of handheld devices such as cell phones while driving due to safety concerns about distractions. If people are reading license plate ads in front of them they surely aren’t going to be paying attention in stop and go freeway traffic or at red lights.

But, hey, money is what makes Sacramento go round. The more you have, the more they can spend wantonly on new programs once The Great Recession recedes.

It is doubtful Price has even thought about who will make the electronic plates should it get that far. Odds are it won’t be in this country as it would be much cheaper to manufacture in places like China. That way we can idle state prisoners who make license plates to create more unrest behind bars. That means legislators can then come up with another multi-million dollar program to keep prisoners busy.

Why stop at license plates? Maybe the special interest groups that lobby legislators and grease their palms with campaign donations, dinners, and such can just buy advertising space inside the senate and assembly chambers and on the outside of the state capitol as well. They essentially buy the vote of legislators so they might as well sponsor the chambers where the dirty deeds are done.

One would hope that the politicians in Sacramento would tighten their proverbial belts like the rest of us have done.

You know, rethink how they are spending things, getting rid of non-essential stuff, and dropping duplicate bureaucratic functions.

But given their response so far, that has about as much chance happening as Arnold Schwarzenegger has of being the next president of the United States.

When the opportunity presented itself in committee to reduce the benefits of future state workers who haven’t been hired yet, it was rejected along party lines with all Democrats voting “no” and Republicans voting “yes”. Forget the fact that the next big financial time bomb is state employee pensions. Should we get out of The Great Recession intact pension payouts may ultimately cripple the state on a permanent basis. No big deal got to make the state employee groups that help finance election campaigns happy.

Then there is another move to shift the cost of public safety and social services on to the backs of the state’s 58 counties. The Democrats aren’t saying how much this will trim the $19 billion deficit but they are offering little tidbits like “it’ll come close.”

This comes after the state has repeatedly stolen property taxes from counties and dumped unfunded mandates on them. Counties are already hurting big time. Of course, all of these services will still be mandated by the state which means the counties must offer them at the level dictated by Sacramento.  It will be up to the counties to do the dirty job of trying to find a way to fund them.

Meanwhile the state passes the buck to local government while stealing their bucks.

And we already know what will happen when the economy recovers. The state will add new programs that we can’t afford to appease special interest groups that run the gamut from large corporations to environmental groups.

The state needs to do what local government and school districts have been doing for the past three years which is rethinking how they deliver services, streamlining operations, and shedding jobs. In fact, that sounds like what just about every business that is still standing has done as well as the workers they employ.

It’s hard for the 120 politicians up in Sacramento who consistently drive the ship of state against the rocks to comprehend they need to rethink state government.

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