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Monday, June 1, 2009

We Need Paul Gann


In 1978 I was not yet of voting age, I was not living in California and my interest in politics was observation from abroad as I was attending high school in Brussels, Belgium. So I was too young and too far away to experience the now labelled "tax payer revolution" of the 1970's in California that began with Proposition 13. I am however old enough and close enough to experience the current tax payer revolt occuring in our state and our nation. Of interest to me, and it should be to you, is how our elected officials and salaried government employees are reacting to the people's wishes and desires for fiscal responsibility.

In the Press-Telegram on Sunday Fifty-Fifth District Assemblyman Warren T. Furutani (D) had a letter published (letter here 3rd and final letter). Reading the letter I was stunned that this was an elected official earning a salary in excess of $125,000 per year and not a high school junior writing a letter for the school newspaper. Furutani submits a very whiny and defensive letter to the residents of his district, he "finds (himself) a part of one of the most maligned, discredited and unpopular political institutions in California's history." And he says he needs some help and understanding. Furutani then begins to assert the biggest canard put forth by Governor Schwarzenegger and members of the California Legislature: our state's fiscal problems are part of the bigger economic crisis enveloping the globe.

To which I say, "Bovine Feces." This state's fiscal problems started more than a decade ago when spending outpaced revenue year after year after year and the state payrolls bloated to the current 235,000 individuals. Salaries, benefits and perks have eaten up our budget and the largesse can be found in the paychecks of those who have contributed to the campaign coffers of Furutani and his fellow Democrats through the public employee unions. The budgets passed year after year for the past decade have outpaced inflation, population growth and a huge growth in tax revenue during the same period--but it is an economic crisis that is a mere eight months old that caused the problem?

What our state needs is a few more politicians like Paul Gann and a few less like Warren Furutani. Gann co-authored Proposition 13 with Howard Jarvis limiting the tax increases imposed on California homeowners. While many in government who want to continue to increase spending even in our current fiscal climate point to Prop 13 as the basis of our problems, Prop 13 has allowed millions of Californians to keep their houses and not lose them to the tax increases that would have forced them out of their homes.

As importantly as the authoring of Prop 13, was Gann's authoring of the Gann Limit which was passed in 1979. Because Sacramento is Sacramento and has always had an insatiable appetite for residents' tax dollars and a glutonous desire to pass on higher salaries to its state employee supporters, Prop 13 saw the probability to more taxes would be raised in the state to enable more spending by the government. The Gann Limit capped the amount spending could increase in California.

Using a formula that included inflation and population growth, the Gann Limit based spending increases allowed by the Legislature not on revenue collection but rather by needs in the state. From 1979 until it was gutted by propositions in 1991 the Gann Limit served the state very well. So well in fact that in 1987 California taxpayers received over $1 billion in rebates--imagine that rebates that were funded by budget surplus. Current calculations show that had the Gann Limit remained in effect, today the state would have over $1 billion in surplus collected and retained during the growth revenue years from 2002 through 2007; a $1 billion cushion to help maintain government services during the current economic cycle.

Instead of a surplus we have threats from Sacramento that child health care and education will be cut, state parks closed and public safety slashed. No comments about Furutani's salary, or that of his staff, or the commissioners who earn over $100,000 per year for not meeting but two or three times, or the renegotiation of salaries and benefit for state employees. Instead of whining about being part of the problem and asking me for help maybe Furutani should look at history and find help was already here and perhaps he can have the courage to resurect it.

We do not need elected officials writing whiny missives to local publications about how hard their jobs are, we need strong leadership from individuals willing to stand apart from their party positions and supporters who have led us to where we are today.

We need someone with the foresight and courage of Paul Gann.

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1 comment:

David said...

Wouldn't it be easier just to ignore the problem and let our kids deal with it later?