Jerry Brown’s Budget

jerry borwnCalifornia’s “new” (but experienced) governor is bringing some urgently needed honesty and fresh thinking to the budgeting process in a state weary of smoke, mirrors, a two-thirds requirement in the legislature for tax increases, and the ravages of a recession imposed largely by external forces. But some mistakes are being made that will probably doom the effort to continue current taxes soon to expire unless the voters extend them.

First, the good news: the governor proposes to axe so-called “redevelopment funds,” which local governments (primarily cities) allegedly use to promote economic and housing projects in blighted areas. Although not a bad idea conceptually, and occasionally successful in practice, this program does not pass the “smell test” when it comes to implementation in many instances. (And who can oppose efficiency in government — except those who benefit from it?)

As documented by the Los Angeles Times, some governmental agencies have spent millions of dollars and failed to produce a single affordable housing unit. Too often, redevelopment funds constitute essentially a slush fund used to subsidize local developers (private sector “entrepreneurs” who won’t take their capitalistic risks without a government handout) — who of course then use some of their profits to line the pockets of the local politicians who have the power to hand out the money. I used to wonder about the hypocrisy of accepting government subsidies for such developments while opposing the use of tax dollars to help ordinary citizens; but that is old news, as the principle of “me first” — gradually evolving into “me only” — seems to rule the country these days. Predictably, local officials are strongly opposing Governor Brown’s initiative on this issue.

The bad news is that, as usual, social services for the poor are being asked to shoulder the heaviest burden of budget cuts Some programs are being proposed for complete elimination — for example, the Adult Day Health Care program that helps seniors continue to live independently when they might otherwise be in nursing homes.

The problem with focusing cuts almost exclusively on poor people is that they will not be able to “carry the day” when the extension of existing tax cuts due to expire comes on the ballot in June — which apparently is the governor’s plan. In this “me first” environment, most people only vote for taxes when they see a direct benefit to themselves With no “skin in the game” for the average middle-class and upper-middle-class citizen, what incentive (other than, umm, “the common good”) do they have for what they perceive as self-imposed pain (with no gain)?

Ron WolffThe governor needs to identify programs that impact the well-to-do and cut them also, at least proportionately. Then his tax-extension program might have at least a fair chance of success.

Oh, by the way, come around Christmas time, I’d love to see Governor Brown commute some prison sentences. Since his predecessor saw fit to reduce the sentence of the son of a political ally, ignoring the plight of many people who had committed similar crimes, Brown should finish the job by taking a comparable action to benefit those who are not well connected. In addition to saving money on the prison budget, it would help us celebrate a country that claims to offer “justice for all.”

Ron Wolff

Musings from Claremont

Published by the LA Progressive on January 25, 2011
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Ron Wolff

Ronald Wolff, Psy.D., has been writing intermittently since childhood. He has authored an unbelievably amateur first novel (“Unintended Consequences”), a political thriller centering on preservation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (“Operation Capitol Hill”), and a number of literary short stories (“The Magic Pill” and “The Cellist”). In his “spare time,” he serves as President/CEO of a non-profit agency serving adults with disabilities. Inspired by his background reading for “Operation Capitol Hill,” Ron is now researching and writing a non-fiction “sequel,” tentatively entitled “I Pledge Allegiance: To What? The Paradox of ‘Me’.” It’s a massive project intended to ask the following questions: How well is this country doing in achieving the fundamental goals outlined in its founding documents? To the extent that achievement falls short of potential, what barriers exist? How, if at all, can these barriers be mitigated or overcome? Ron lives in Claremont with his dog Angel. He texts but does not tweet. Should you be so motivated, write him at OpCapitolHill@aol.com.

Comments

  1. W e need to raise taxes on the well to do through commercial property tax reassessment. That’s where much of the money is, CalTaxReform.org details this information.If someone was selling a product for $2 but could only get $1 in their major market, California a fairly wealthy place that would be considered ridiculous.
    Also the property tax rate of homeowners is not democratic. Someones home value goes up to $600,000 yet they’re paying taxes at a $200,000 is also wrong. They can pay for these as back taxes when they sell their home, if they’re on a fixed income.
    Other states as you can see in these winter cold spells also pay very high heating bills while still paying much higher taxes than here in California.

Speak Your Mind

*

Visit us on Google+