Gov. Jerry Brown needs all the luck he can get.
The odds are greater that the Sacramento Kings will win the 2013 NBA championship than Brown being able to come up with a plan to put California’s finances back on the straight and narrow that a majority of folks will buy into.
No special interest group on life support with state funding wants to give an inch. Not state universities, not correctional officers, not welfare recipients, not the court system… You get the picture.
There are probably tens of thousands of voters out there like myself who are on the fence that the governor has a fighting chance at getting us to cast our lot with his tax proposal if it happens to qualify for the November ballot.
Just like everyone else I know a lot of people who are hurting and have been pushed to the edge financially. Taking even a hundred dollars more away from them a year in sales tax will hurt them especially with gas prices and food costs rising.
But I also see the danger of slashing education and what I’d define as essential services. That is where the rub comes in. Although I must admit I’m turned off by non-stop marching of protestors on Sacramento constantly throwing what seem like temper tantrums saying their funding is the important issue facing the state when it has extremely limited dollars available, I can look beyond that.
What I can’t look beyond is what the state passes off as essential services.
The best way to illustrate this is how the state hasn’t cut back during the Great Recession compared to local governments.
From 2010 to 2012 the state workforce shrank by only 5.5 percent going from 237,654 workers to 224.645. Compare that to Manteca that went from 423 employees in the same time period down to 342 for a 19.1 percent reduction.
Local governments that make sure there are police officers and firefighters to protect you, people to pick up your garbage and keep streets maintained, keep water flowing and toilets flushing, and parks maintained have trimmed their staffing back and have kept going.
The state really hasn’t.
On top of that, some state workers often whine about being forced to take furlough days. They’ve got it good. Most local governments have imposed furlough days plus cut back compensation. In Manteca, the typical city worker has seen their compensation shrink by 20 to 30 percent over the past three years.
So how are cities and local school districts still moving forward and functioning? The answer is simple. They were forced to re-examine how they got the job done and change the way they did business. Duties were shifted. Positions eliminated and combined. Priorities made. They essentially re-invented themselves. Unlike the state, they didn’t have the luxury of budget hocus pocus. If the money isn’t available, local government can’t spend it.
The state needs to go through the same exercise with its workforce and functions
There is an inordinate amount of duplicate regulatory agencies at the state level. Streamline the system. Get rid of red tape and get rid of non-essential jobs.
There is also an inflated sense of value.
There are 8,000 state workers who make more than the governor’s $173,987 annual salary. Of those, 70 percent work for the University of California.
That’s the same university system where students are being squeezed and then encouraged to march on Sacramento demanding even more money for higher education.
It is things like that – a workforce that really hasn’t been overhauled and streamlined plus a good-sized army of people making big bucks from the state – that make it hard to vote yes on any state tax increase on the November ballot.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.