In passing a budget compromise, Democrats and Republicans set aside our differences to save our state from a looming disaster that would have caused Californians significant, lasting pain and cost billions of dollars more.
Though agreeing to this compromise has been viewed as an inconceivable move by some, I believe it is time to move past the controversy and start looking forward to the many challenges facing California in the months ahead.
There’s no doubt about it – the budget we passed was a compromise in every sense of the word. It included many things that were abhorrent to Democrats and Republicans. For me, I profoundly disagreed with the taxes.
But the consequences of not passing this budget compromise were significant. Californians would go without over a billion dollars in tax refunds for the foreseeable future, our credit rating would drop to junk bond status increasing borrowing costs, counties and small businesses that work for the state would go unpaid, forcing many to declare bankruptcy and triggering mass layoffs. Not to mention the loss of services to seniors, children and those with special needs.
Worse, we were faced with the real prospect of a majority vote budget being passed. That would have guaranteed us a budget with no Republican input, permanent tax increases, no reform, and no real cuts.
So we came together to do the best we could to be fiscally responsible in midst of a $42 billion crisis. The result was a compromise that includes some things we don’t like but it also includes many things that Republicans have been advocating for years.
It includes a strong spending limit and strengthened rainy day fund that Republicans believe is essential to forcing the Legislature to only spend what the state takes in each year while saving for the future. This is the only way to stop the Legislature from overspending and growing government at an unsustainable rate.
The budget plan will also take a significant step forward to reduce the size of government. It includes $15 billion in real spending cuts over the next 18 months. Spending will fall from $104.5 billion in the adopted 2008-09 budget to $92.2 billion in 2009-10.
We also helped secure an economic recovery plan, including $1 billion in tax incentives, to lower business costs and entice more businesses to stay and expand in our state and create jobs. The compromise also removes red tape holding up infrastructure projects and reforms education to let local school spend more in the classroom and less on bureaucracy.
On balance, I believe this compromise reflects many of the priorities of Republicans. But now it’s time to move the debate forward and turn our attention to the many, other serious problems that have gone neglected for too long thanks to our budget mess.
In the coming months, Republicans will continue to push for further reform of our broken system.
With our state facing severe water shortages and mandatory rationing, we will be fighting to build the additional water storage required to meet our needs.
Most importantly, we want to provide effective oversight of the dollars the state receives under the Federal Stimulus Bill, to ensure they are spent on critical needs that benefit Californians. We should not accept federal monies that would expand programs and boost the state’s costs in future years since federal dollars will disappear and leave the state with unfunded mandates.
It is time that we move beyond the budget and show Californians that their government has common-sense solutions on all of the issues affecting their quality of life. That’s what Assembly Republicans will be doing in the coming months – promoting the reforms necessary to end business as usual in state government, protect taxpayers and put Californians first again.