Addressing Long-Term Problems Should Be Legislature’s Top Priority

As my colleagues and I gather to begin a new legislative year, I believe
addressing California’s long-term problems should be our top priority for
2006. Assembly Republicans stand ready to work with our Democrat colleagues
and the governor to craft the common-sense solutions the people of this
state deserve.

After last year’s legislative session adjourned, my Republican colleagues
and I held a series of policy forums across California to help focus on how
we will address some of our state’s most pressing issues in the coming year.

We spent many hours meeting with policy experts, state officials and opinion
leaders of all political stripes. These meetings, in addition to many other
discussions we’ve had, helped affirm for us the priorities of eliminating
the structural budget deficit, addressing California’s infrastructure needs
and improving the quality of education for all children.

In addressing California’s structural budget deficit, we have made some
welcome progress. Last year, we paid off some of the debt incurred over the
years, thanks to tax revenues increasing by $6 billion. While this is great
news, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) recently forecast
that budget deficits will continue unless we take action now to fix broken
budget formulas that require us to spend more than we take in each year.

The LAO also cites this imbalance as a key reason for our position as the
lowest rated state in the nation in terms of bond rates. Assembly
Republicans will take seriously the responsibility of how we spend the
people’s hard-earned tax dollars, and will work to eliminate the deficits
forecast for the coming years.

This year, we must also invest in revamping our aging water delivery system,
upgrading our failing levees, meeting our schools’ needs, and building new
highways and ports. California’s transportation system was designed to
accommodate 25 million people. We must expand our roads and highways to
meet the needs of the 42 million people who will call our state home in the
next 10 years. Assembly Republicans will focus this year on prioritizing
our state’s most pressing infrastructure needs. Finding ways to pay for
these priorities within existing budget resources will be a challenge, but
one that Republicans are determined to address.

Perhaps the most important investment we can make in 2006 – or any other
year – is in our schools. We again will lead the charge to invest wisely to
improve educational opportunities for all California students. To do that,
we must reinforce the importance of giving parents more power and more
control over what their children learn and how they learn it. We must
champion the creation of more charter schools, where innovation and
creativity thrive for the benefit of better-educated children. We also must
make clear the importance of putting more dollars into the classroom, and
less into the bureaucracy.

In an election year like 2006, there undoubtedly will be a lure for
politicians to engage in heated campaign rhetoric and political attacks.

Such unproductive political gameplaying must be avoided to instead focus on
the many pressing problems before us. Political stunts, such as sending the
governor tax-increase proposals or other irresponsible legislation to score
points with special interests, will only undermine the bipartisan spirit
that is required if we are to make the changes needed to build a better

We can do it – if we prioritize and if we end the rancor and divisiveness
that undermines our good intentions and our credibility with the public. I
look forward to the year ahead and I am confident that, working together, we
can achieve great things for California.

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