Californians are living through tough times.
Sky-high inflation. Crippling drought. Rising crime rates. Growing homelessness. Increasing wildfires. Learning loss among students. Crumbling roads. Disjointed supply chain crisis.
California’s list of crises continues to grow.
Yet, the governor’s lack of urgency to solve these pressing issues is frustrating.
The state budget is by far one of the most important responsibilities that the Governor and lawmakers assemble each year. It dictates and shapes the spending of precious tax dollars and determines the outcomes of critical problems facing California.
The state budget must provide a needed framework and investment to solve California’s growing list of crises.
With an estimated $68 billion budget surplus, the Governor and lawmakers have an opportunity to carefully prioritize the allocation of taxpayer dollars and bring measurable results in the short and long term.
Yet what do we see with Gov. Newsom’s budget proposal? Misplaced priorities, unsustainable spending and a failure to focus on the basics.
At a time when inflation is soaring, lawmakers must not only provide immediate relief but also reduce the tax burdens driving California families and businesses out of state.
The governor and Sacramento Democrats have failed to exercise leadership in suspending the annual increase in the gas tax, which could have provided Californians with much-needed relief. They have failed to acknowledge that the growing cost of living and increased tax burdens are driving the exodus out of California.
Inaction by Gov. Newsom and Sacramento Democrats is unacceptable. Their failure to act prudently is tone-deaf and truly mind boggling.
Republicans proposed suspending the state’s 51 cents per gallon gas tax to provide immediate relief at the pump. But Sacramento Democrats used their supermajority power to turn a legislative proposal that reduces taxes into one that inexplicably increases taxes.
Californians are rightfully frustrated.
Unfortunately, Newsom’s proposed budget continues to focus on questionable spending – putting the state on an unsustainable path. Success cannot be based on the amount of money spent.
Californians demand measurable and tangible results, and that requires reevaluation, oversight, and scrutiny.
Recently, the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office highlighted the fact that the governor’s budget proposal is not sustainable because it surpasses the state’s spending limit, often referred to as the Gann limit: “Under the Governor’s budget, the State is very likely to face future, serious budget challenges. …the state would need to make cuts to existing services to bring the budget back into balance,” the state’s financial experts cautioned in their March report.”
The report also calls for more oversight and savings to cushion the blow to the most vulnerable residents. I could not agree more.
With a short term yet significant budget surplus, lawmakers must make needed one-time investments in:
• Programs and school infrastructure that help our students recover from learning loss;
• Law enforcement to bring back accountability and ensure public safety;
• Construction of new water storage projects;
• Enhancement of proper forest management to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires;
• Systems that target mental illness and substance use disorder to reduce homelessness;
• Supply chain infrastructure to ensure California’s global competitiveness;
• The repair and building of bridge and road infrastructure.
Given the $68 billion budget surplus, these vital issues can be addressed now. The Legislature can reject the governor’s overspending and provide permanent tax relief that Californians desperately need.
With the May Revision of his budget, Gov. Newsom must address California’s increasing crises and permanently reduce taxes so families and workers can keep more of their hard-earned money.
It’s time to return to the basics: the state must live within its means, stop reckless spending, reduce the tax burden, and make needed long-term one time infrastructure investments to propel our state to economic growth.
Vince Fong is vice chair of the California State Assembly’s Budget Committee.