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Sharp disparity between what Westly claims and what is real

For months now, Steve Westly has claimed that he will fully fund California
schools with some fairy dust that catches tax cheats. Now, he has cast his
magic wand at “reforming” the lottery. Steve Westly may have some tricks up
his sleeve, but his record shows that he can’t be trusted to do what’s right
for California’s public schools.

Just take a look back to 2003, when a then-popular Governor Schwarzenegger
tried to eliminate college-preparation programs for disadvantaged kids.
While Phil Angelides joined students and parents from around the state in
opposing and ultimately reversing the Schwarzenegger education cuts, Steve
Westly was telling business leaders, “My job is to make this guy
[Schwarzenegger] successful.”

Even after Schwarzenegger hiked college fees and tuition, cut financial aid,
eliminated tax credits for teachers who pay for their own school supplies,
tried to take health care away from 100,000 school children and tried to cut
assistance for developmentally disabled kids, Westly was willing to give the
governor a pass, telling the Los Angeles Times that he would not run against
Schwarzenegger.

Now, candidate Westly says that he will fully fund education if elected
governor by cracking down on tax cheats and “reforming” the lottery. But the
Westly plan still falls a few rungs short of a full ladder. While Westly
touts “his” tax-amnesty proposal, claiming new revenue of $3.5 billion, the
Sacramento Bee’s Dan Weintraub pointed out on March 21 that there is a huge
gap between the truth and what Westly claims: “Westly brags about ‘cracking
down on tax cheats’ to bring in billions in new revenue, but state budget
experts say almost all of the money his policies brought in will either be
refunded back to taxpayers or would have been collected later anyway.”

Even his own campaign has conceded now that, “Westly knows that California
is not going to be able to keep every dime” that was collected. According to
the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), that would actually be $2.5 billion
worth of dimes that should be deducted from Westly’s figures (“Perspectives
on State Revenues,” LAO, February 2006; and “Abusive Tax Shelters,” LAO,
January 27, 2006).

Westly’s claims would be harmless insider boasting but for his personal
checkbook (he’s contributed $22.5 million so far) that allows him to heavily
broadcast false claims that he’s “brought in billions” for schools.
With his credibility apparently waning on the tax-cheat front, Westly has
turned to trumpeting lottery “reform” as his latest plan to fully fund
education–never mind that, as state controller, he annually audits the
lottery and for four years now has failed to turn up any more money for our
schools.

As you may have guessed, the Westly lottery reform proposal is nothing more
than smoke and mirrors, with Westly calling for the reversal of the 54
percent of California lottery dollars spent on prizes with the 34 percent
that goes to education. Less in prizes, more in ticket sales? That’s not
what Texas found when then-Governor George W. Bush decided to decrease
lottery payouts from 57 percent to 52 percent, causing revenues and payouts
to schools to plunge by 37 percent within two years. When Texas reversed its
course, raising payouts back to 57 percent, lottery revenue and school
funding increased.

But while most experts have said Westly’s plan will gut school funding, he
continues to raise the stakes like a gambler who has taken a big loss. When
he addressed the Education Trust-West conference in Los Angeles in early
April, Westly said his lottery plan “may not be realistic.” Yet in an
interview with the Associated Press just this week, Westly said his plan
would provide several hundred million dollars for public schools.

One day Westly acknowledges that his lottery plan “may not be realistic,”
and another day he promises that it will deliver hundreds of millions of
dollars for schools, apparently he is still comfortable financing a
television advertising campaign that hails lottery “reform” as a centerpiece
of his agenda for education.

California’s kids deserve real solutions, not more empty promises. As the
Los Angeles Times reported on April 1, “


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