Here we go again. It’s time for leadership. Someone to guide, to direct, to take charge of the state Legislature. In the past 24 years, the Legislature has passed only one state budget within the mandated July 15 date. Lack of a budget costs the state $52 million a day! Three proposed budget plans are before the Legislature, one from the Democratic caucus in the Assembly, one from the Democratic caucus in the Senate and one from the governor; the Democrats can’t even agree on one plan and the Republicans have offered no detailed plan. Where’s the leadership? The state currently faces a deficit of over $19 billion, and that rises every day there is no approved budget. Since there appears to be no clear leadership either from the governor or anyone in the state Legislature, get ready for name calling, finger pointing and a lot of nothing happening as both sides dig in to get what they want. Our elected leaders are expected to do their jobs, which is to represent their constituents, and not play the blame game or merely raise taxes to balance the budget. Over the past 10 years state spending from state sources has more than doubled; during Schwarzenegger’s tenure state spending from state sources has risen almost 40 percent. The state cannot just cut services and raise fees. There needs to be a plan put in place and adhered to to bring spending and revenue in line.
In the meantime, the governor has issued a minimum-wage order that would reduce the salaries of most state workers to $7.25 per hour, and is now battling State Controller John Chiang to implement it. Lost pay would be reimbursed when a budget is signed; in San Diego County, 8,919 workers would be affected. The main reason for this is to put pressure on the legislators to get a budget together that the governor will sign as soon as possible. The governor also wants legislators to roll back current pension terms to those that existed before 1999 legislation created more generous rules. The state is in crisis and, until leadership and vision is demonstrated in all departments and offices of government, the budget square dance will continue with only a change of partners while the music plays on.