If the energy crisis didn't dominate so much of the news from
Sacramento, California's state budget should have provoked
taxpayers to storm the docks looking for tea crates to
vandalize. As the June 30th Constitutional deadline
to pass the budget approaches, it is apparent that California's
budget is in the same shambles as its energy policy.
The unavoidable and unpleasant fact is that California
government now consumes more from family incomes than ever
before ($9.09 out of every $100 earned - a record high), while
delivering less than ever before.
As the state's new budget takes final form, taxpayers need to
ask the question of their representatives, "are you
spending my money as carefully as I spend what's left after
you've taken my taxes?" When a government takes so much, it
has an obligation to answer for the outcome.
To appreciate how shocking the answer is, one needs to go
back to the last year of Gov. Pat Brown's administration. In
1966, voters booted him from office, in part because of charges
that he was a profligate spender. And, in all fairness, he was.
The state was constructing the biggest aqueduct in history.
It had just undertaken an unprecedented expansion of the state
university system. It had created a state highway system that
made California's freeways the model for the world. It had
authorized major hydroelectric and nuclear facilities that
promised a limitless supply of clean, cheap and abundant
electricity. It delivered one of the finest public schools
systems in the country and a mental health system that has yet
to be rivaled. Spacious new homes at a fraction of today's
prices were springing up in new communities across the state.
To produce all this, in 1966 Pat Brown spent $1,300 for every
man, woman and child in California (in 2000 inflation-adjusted
dollars). Gray Davis wants to spend nearly $3,000 per person --
or two and a half times more.
In 1966, Brown delivered a first rate school system for about
$3,000 per student from all sources: local, state and federal,
in inflation-adjusted dollars. Davis will spend more than $9,000
per student from all sources to deliver a school system that
consistently ranks near the bottom of national student
The only area where Davis is spending less than Brown is for
transportation. In the May budget revision, he slashed general
fund support for transportation by 70 percent. California once
had the finest highway system in the world. Just look at it now.
Californians are about to see yet another state budget that
takes record amounts from their earnings while delivering
nothing but excuses. It doesn't need to be that way, but it will
require some fundamental changes in the way California does
business. Among them:
* Decentralize the service delivery systems of the state,
allowing local governments the latitude they need to adjust
their services and resources according to their own best lights.
* Restore our highway taxes for our highways. Californians
bear the third heaviest taxes per vehicle in the nation, yet we
rank dead last in our per capita spending on roads.
* Reward the good teachers and fire the lousy ones. There's
something desperately wrong when the best and the brightest
teachers in California are paid the same as the dullest and
* Allow state government to engage private firms when they
can provide services faster, better and cheaper than the state's
* Stop taking the taxes paid by one community for projects
that exclusively benefit another - literally robbing Piedmont to
* Stop borrowing from our children and our grandchildren to
pay for our own consumption.
* Remove the bureaucratic obstacles that once produced
affordable housing and clean, cheap and abundant electricity.
* Stop telling people how to run their lives, raise their
children, and spend their money.
If this were Pat Brown's 1966 budget, adjusted for inflation
and population growth he would be requesting $40 billion - not
the $100 billion that Gray Davis wants to spend. Proportionally,
that is what it should cost to produce the prosperous state we
And that's a crisis even bigger than electricity.
Senator Tom McClintock represents the 19th
Senate District in the California Legislature. His website
address is www.sen.ca.gov/mcclintock.