New­som, Say No to Waste in Sacra­mento

The Signal - - Opinion - Scott WILK

This month Cal­i­for­ni­ans elected a new gover­nor and I wish Gover­nor-elect Gavin New­som much suc­cess be­cause his suc­cess as gover­nor means our suc­cess as a state.

That be­ing said, Gover­nor-elect New­som will face some very dif­fer­ent chal­lenges than his pre­de­ces­sor, Gov. Jerry Brown.

When Brown took of­fice, the state was mired in debt. To­day, de­spite taxes that are too high and an overly zeal­ous reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment, the na­tional econ­omy is hum­ming and the state’s cof­fers are full.

And whereas this is def­i­nitely good news, if his­tory is any pre­dic­tion of the fu­ture, the Demo­crat-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture will in­tro­duce a myr­iad of per­ma­nent spend­ing pro­pos­als that could ul­ti­mately threaten the state’s fis­cal in­tegrity when the next re­ces­sion hits.

His­tor­i­cally, the last gover­nor fac­ing such a boun­ti­ful state trea­sury was Gray Davis. In 1999, when Davis fol­lowed Re­pub­li­can Gov. Pete Wil­son into of­fice, Cal­i­for­nia had a $16 bil­lion bud­get sur­plus.

When Davis was re­called five years later, the state was $38 bil­lion in the red.

What hap­pened?

First, the dot.com bub­ble burst and the coun­try went into re­ces­sion.

But even more im­por­tantly, while the state was boom­ing, Davis ex­panded a host of per­ma­nent spend­ing pro­grams that, once the econ­omy went south, lit­er­ally threat­ened to bank­rupt the state and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the state.

So let us cel­e­brate our re­turn to fis­cal health, but let us also keep an eye to­ward fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity as well, be­cause a slump in the state’s econ­omy will sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact the state’s fi­nances. Cal­i­for­nia’s tax struc­ture is par­tic­u­larly volatile be­cause it re­lies on high-in­come earn­ers and high sales taxes. A 2018 Leg­isla­tive An­a­lyst Re­port es­ti­mated that even a mod­er­ate re­ces­sion could lead to a $40 bil­lion bud­get deficit.

So Gover­nor-elect New­som, now would be a good time to learn to “Just Say No” to waste­ful spend­ing.

As Gov. Brown put it, “We’re [fis­cally] well po­si­tioned, but if the next gover­nor doesn’t say ‘no’ at crit­i­cal mo­ments, things will get worse.”

Some sug­ges­tions for our new gover­nor:

1) High Speed Rail. De­rail the train! Per­haps the most waste­ful project in our state’s his­tory. A true boon­dog­gle that no one will ride, even if it is one day com­pleted, which it never will be. Cut our loses, gover­nor, and let’s move on.

2) So­lar pan­els on every house. A good idea whose time has not yet come, as it is eco­nom­i­cally not fea­si­ble for first-time home buy­ers as it sim­ply makes hous­ing more un­af­ford­able. Elim­i­nate the man­date.

In­stead, let’s re­pur­pose funds to pro­grams and ser­vices aver­age Cal­i­for­ni­ans ex­pect and de­serve:

1) More funds are needed to de­velop a sta­ble wa­ter sup­ply for peo­ple, agri­cul­ture and the en­vi­ron­ment.

2) Let’s keep our prom­ise to the dis­abil­ity com­mu­nity who wit­nessed their fund­ing slashed dur­ing the “Great Re­ces­sion,” but haven’t had their fund­ing restored dur­ing our cur­rent eco­nomic boom.

3) And, let’s stop just pay­ing lip ser­vice and ac­tu­ally in­crease fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion. Gover­nor, let’s use Propo­si­tion 98 (which guar­an­tees K-12 fund­ing) as a floor and not a ceil­ing for our ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing!

Fi­nally, if there’s one Jerry Brown legacy our new gover­nor should con­tinue, it is the five-year bud­get plan­ning process.

Brown saw the re­volv­ing door of sur­pluses/deficits play out through his two terms and those of his pre­de­ces­sors and used five-year plan­ning to force peo­ple to re­al­ize the on­go­ing fis­cal obli­ga­tions that new pro­grams or ben­e­fits cre­ate.

One of Gov. Brown’s fi­nal warn­ings that our new gover­nor-elect should heed: “There’s no preda­tor for this species of bud­getary ac­tiv­ity, ex­cept the gover­nor.”

As we en­ter the next leg­isla­tive ses­sion I will work with the new gover­nor when I can and op­pose him when I must.

But, my goal will al­ways be to be fis­cally pru­dent with the tax­pay­ers’ money, and to do what is in the best in­ter­est of the peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia.

Sen. Scott Wilk rep­re­sents the state’s 21st Se­nate Dis­trict, which in­cludes most of the Santa Clarita Val­ley.

Gover­nor-elect New­som, now would be a good time to learn to “Just Say No” to waste­ful spend­ing. As Gover­nor Brown put it, “We’re [fis­cally] well po­si­tioned, but if the next gover­nor doesn’t say ‘no’ at crit­i­cal mo­ments, things will get worse.”

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