Reforming the system to build a stronger California

California begins 2008 facing a severe budget deficit and a host of serious challenges that will surely impact the lives of hard-working Californians.

As lawmakers return to Sacramento, Republicans stand ready to roll up our sleeves and tackle our state’s major problems before they spiral out of control. Defending taxpayers, we will be advocating for the necessary reforms required to get our state back on track.

Everything we do this year will be overshadowed by a $14 billion deficit that grows larger by the day. Republicans believe lawmakers must come together to reject new spending and new programs and better prioritize current spending. We must live within our means. We will work with the governor to evaluate existing programs to find possible spending reductions and will extend our hand across party lines to find consensus on the difficult choices required to get the deficit under control.

Unfortunately, Democrats continue to add to the problem. Last month, they passed a government-run health care scheme with $14 billion in higher spending that will result in $8.5 billion in higher taxes. Their reckless spending over many, many years has brought us to the brink of financial ruin, and it’s time we take responsible action before California sinks into bankruptcy.

However, instead of proposing cuts and living within our means, Democrats now want taxpayers to pay for their continued overspending. On top of higher health care taxes, they are pushing $500 million in higher taxes on purchases made over the Internet and a $6 billion car tax hike. They also want to eliminate the mortgage interest tax deduction, a $5.3 billion tax increase that will cause significant pain for many families.

The deficit grew because the Legislature spent too much, not because Californians are taxed too little. Revenue increased 40 percent over the past four years, but Democrats grew spending by 44 percent. Taxpayers shouldn’t be punished for the fiscal mismanagement of the liberal Democrat majority, and Republicans will stand united in rejecting any tax increases.

The time has also come to consider important reforms to fix our budget system, such as adopting a two-year budget. Changing to a system where the first year of the legislative session would be devoted solely to the budget and the second year on other legislative issues would force lawmakers to get their priorities straight and stop wasting time on the trivial and the absurd. We also must institute a real spending limit that guarantees we don’t spend more than we take in.

While the challenges facing the state as we begin 2008 are numerous and complex, I am confident that if we set aside our differences and pledge to work together in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, we can get the deficit under control, pass common-sense reforms that will turn our state around, and build a stronger California.

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