Sunday, May 24, 2009

California says enough already.

Last week's special election has been dissected, analyzed, and broken down by pundits across the land, here are the highlights.

Spend only what you have. The mindset that spending must constantly increase is a concept that only exists in government. When you and I earn a little more money in a given month, through working overtime or through the one time selling of an asset, do we go out and buy a new car on credit, based on that month's revenue? This is precisely what the government does. When the economy is booming and revenue is coming in buckets, that revenue becomes the new baseline from which you plan your next year's budget. When you base your budget on the best-case scenario, you are planning for failure. People have short memories, they forget the lean times when they find themselves with extra money, and governments seem to suffer from this type of memory loss on an epic scale.

Some local municipalities do set aside a rainy day fund; however, these funds are usually only a few percent of their budgets. When revenues go down, these rainy day funds disappear quickly. On the other hand, many government agencies face a "use it or lose it" budget process, if they do not spend every dollar they were budgeted, they face losing the unused money from next fiscal year's funding. Does this seem backwards to you? If you spend your money wisely, and run an efficient department, your department is punished. If you spend every dime, or go over budget, you receive your full amount, plus the inevitable increase for the next year.

There are two major problems facing California. Most people when asked will say it is a lack of money; the primary problem however, is a lack of leadership. Leadership is not increasing funding for schools, law enforcement, or any program every single year just because you can. Real leadership is being fiscally responsible and living within your means. This is not complicated. As much as you hear politicians talk about draconian cuts, slashing this service or gutting this program, just remember, they are ones who caused this situation. No one in Sacramento wants to be the person who has to say no.

Both parties in Sacramento receive huge campaign contributions from special interests including public employee unions. When your main campaign contributors come to see you and they say they need more money, what will you do? Will you be responsible and show real leadership, or will you do everything in your power to see that every last penny the state has goes to them? It’s the same for private contributors. Every time a land developer, or private company who relies on government contracts, gives a politician money, they expect something in return. That is just the way it works; money equals access. The more you give, they better your relationship, and the more sway you have over the state’s purse strings. I am not against lobbying or making your case to your representative, however, the taxpayer should have an equal say since it is their money the politicians are spending.

The public made a few things clear last week. Live within your means. We are being taxed enough, a fee is just another way to tax us, and we are watching you. The people you take the money from are just as important as those you give that money to. Learn to say no; there are programs that exist simply because no one will show enough leadership to say no to special interests. Bipartisanship does not mean trying to find three votes from the other party to push your tax and spending plan through. If you have been in control the legislature for the last 12 years, and you keep running the government to the breaking point, maybe it’s time to listen to the other side.

Maybe it is time for new leadership.

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