Balanced budget sure to agitate all Californians

If California were a state unto its own, its government could be left to founder.
Awash in debt, it’s now delaying payments with IOUs — which major banks aren’t honoring. Such a tactic is rapidly downgrading its credit rating, just a notch above junk bond status..
Its $26 billion debt is growing $25 million a day. With a budget the eighth largest in the world, it rivals countries such as Italy and Spain. The fear is that if California sinks, it will take the country down with it. Californians have asked the U.S. government to rescue it. President Obama should stand firm in his denial.

THE RECESSION that began in 2007 is hurting us all. Of the 50 states, only two, Minnesota and North Dakota, began the year in the black. The rest have had to make drastic cuts; about half have raised taxes. Obama’s stimulus package made up for about 40 percent of the states’ debt, saving many crucial programs and services.
In California, legislators have a say over about 25 percent of the budget. The rest is hamstrung by voter initiatives. In 1978, Proposition 13 dramatically reduced most property taxes by more than 60 percent.
In 1982, the equivalent of the misnamed “Death Tax” was repealed, allowing survivors to inherit bequests tax-free. That initiative has lost the state an easy $1 billion a year. California is missing a prime opportunity to benefit from one of its biggest assets. Californians are a disproportionately wealthy lot, ranking 13th in the nation in personal wealth.
These two tax-saving measures are with California for the unforeseeable future for two reasons:
1. To overturn any measure requires two-thirds of a majority of both houses. Both bodies have sufficient minority numbers to thwart reversals; and,
2. Term limits doom legislators from building widespread support on any substantial issues, leaving them victim to lobbyists whose tenures allow them to become the “experts” on pet projects, rarely with a balanced budget in mind.
In May, California voters soundly rejected five of six propositions de-signed to save the state from insolvency. The only proposition that passed was to limit elected officials’ salaries.
Their message was loud and clear: Sacramento, cut the fat from your own ranks.
An obvious target are government pensions that in eight years have risen from $321 million to $7.3 billion, including more than 5,000 employees who are drawing annual pensions in excess of $100,000.
Gov. Schwarzenegger had his own budget-saving agenda: Abolish the state’s welfare program and other safety net services, sensitive soul that he is, buckling the state to third-world status.
A town, a state, a country is only as strong as its weakest demographic. Enabling the disadvantaged is what makes the United States the envy of the world. Think of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s most humble circumstances and how they did not prevent her from receiving a superior education.

THE CALIFORNIA Legislature has until the end of August to balance its budget. Get out the smelling salts. The measures needed will cause all to faint.

— Susan Lynn