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Brown's legacy: Saving the state from splurge spending

POSTED January 25, 2013 8:52 p.m.

Jerry Brown's legacy awaits. And so does the future of California.
Somewhat responsible spending cutbacks, an improving economy, and a big tax increase have aligned for an occurrence that happens in California with as much frequency as visits by Halley's Comet - a projected balanced budget.
The governor's budget for 2013-14 projects a 3.3 percent increase in revenue, restores some education funding, and includes an $851 million surplus. Spending overall will go up 5 percent. The budget's bottom line means no more wholesale budget cuts.
That, however, isn't good enough news for some folks. They are already goading Democrats in the Legislature to break ranks with the governor.
This is where one hopes Brown is able to persuade lawmakers that the best chance Californians have for a solid future is - as he puts it - by "living within our means."
The price we paid for almost 40 years of reckless spending has been painful. It is still hurting all of us to various degrees.
This is the time to hold the line and re-engineer how state government operates.
State government still hasn't gone through an attitude adjustment like the private sector and local governments have in the past six years.
Yes, there have been changes but certainly not on a grand scale. What state government has passed off as reform is like replacing a morbidly obese person's regular soda for diet soda and saying that's all that is needed for them to become healthy. The biggest long-term issue - pension reform - still has to be addressed. The minor changes have been made but they are barely a start.
Streamlining government functions when it comes to paper-pushing and regulations is a must. Even if it doesn't result in a single job being eliminated, having a government that is more flexible and quicker to respond will have ripple effects on the economy.
Brown's proposal to change public education funding is a start. But what is really needed is rethinking how we can educate our youth by harnessing technology to make teachers even more effective and students more attentive. At the same time higher education needs to be streamlined so degrees can be attained quicker and at a lower cost. That may mean finding ways to do without the bloated ranks of non-instructors that the University of California and California State University systems both harbor.
Most of us have taken to heart the lessons that we learned from living beyond our means.
We have adjusted to reality. It is dangerous to bite off more than you can chew whether it is housing, what you drive, or what you consume. And it is extremely costly to borrow to cover necessities. People have learned to downsize, downgrade or simply do without in order to stay afloat.
Most of us now seem to understand the folly of charging a $50 meal at Applebee's and spending seven years to pay it off. The legislature needs to apply that lesson to state spending.
True prosperity and the expansion of opportunities for those struggling to rise above poverty can't be accomplished via excessive government spending.
The governor knows it.
Let's just hope his fellow Democrats in the legislature do as well.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

 

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