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It’s time to reject all incumbents in Sacramento

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POSTED November 18, 2009 2:26 a.m.
California is in a world of hurt. We have overextended government to the point we can no longer afford it.

The projected deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal year has now mushroomed to $21 billion - triple the original estimate. That hasn’t stopped the head of the California State University system from making an aggressive pitch for an $832 million increase in the 2010-11 fiscal year budget.

The party’s over.

Yet there are those who still act like it’ll never end.

No one is going to argue that higher education and having it accessible is a high priority. Unfortunately so are law enforcement, fire protection, health care, social service, and kindergarten through 12th grade education, transportation, environmental protection, flood control, water development, and the correction system. And the list goes on and on.

The day of reckoning has arrived yet everyone is still in denial. Unless everyone agrees these are extraordinary times and unless serious belt tightening takes place in terms of how we run the state government we are just going to dig ourselves in so deep that it may take decades instead of years to recover.

There is only one viable long-term solution and that is to actually shrink the bureaucracy. That doesn’t mean dropping a few hundred jobs here or there. We’re talking crash diet and the need to shed tens of thousands of jobs which means retooling government and how it does business and how it regulates the rest of us.

This has to happen in the next nine months - the equivalent of overnight in government time. Why the urgency? Well, with all of the cuts in place and the revenue hocus pocus we have a $21 billion deficit just four months after allegedly balancing the budget. That hocus pocus includes “borrowing” revenue from next year’s budget to balance the current budget.

Making all of this worse is the state can’t currently afford to pay school districts the reduced money they promised them. In other words, districts retained everything from teachers to custodians on the state’s promise they would send them a set amount of money during this fiscal year. It is looking more and more like they will defer the deferred payment once again. Of course, when the announcement comes the state will make it sound like they are deferring next year’s money. If Sacramento is good at one thing it is smoke and mirrors.

That means local school districts are going to get hammered big time making what has gone on so far seem like the good old days.

State-level furloughs aren’t cutting it. Besides, virtually every state employee union is challenging the legality of furloughs. No problem. Convert furloughs into layoffs. Better yet, convert furloughs into eliminated bureaucratic jobs.

We all need to lower our expectations when it comes to state government. As long as our leaders bicker and those in charge of services keep pushing for budget increases instead of biting the bullet or trying to retool how business is done we will just keep sliding backward. You can’t start moving forward until you stop backsliding.

Unless we demand that the state practice tough love with the vast bureaucracy that our tax dollars have nurtured and helped grow for the past 40 years, they will continue to cannibalize local services delivered by cities, counties, and school districts.

By not stopping the madness now, there is a real risk the entire state will plunge into Third World status.

Going cold turkey is the only way to do it. Entire state departments must be obliterated or have their work forces drastically reduced and retooled.

Unfortunately, no one in Sacramento is up to the challenge. That is underscored by the fact they keep trying to push the problem into future years hoping against hope revenues will bounce back to cleanse them of the stench of that comes with betraying the public trust.

Our current leaders are more comfortable in the role of  Santa Claus and view any attempt at trying to rein in the ”we want we want” culture in Sacramento as being the equivalent of playing Scrooge. In reality, it calls for people who act like responsible stewards of California.

The $21 billion deficit should be the clarion call for voters, regardless of how much you like the incumbent it is time to just say no across the board come next November. Our elected leaders have earned such a blanket rejection.
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