Budget & Finances
I’ve only been in the State Senate for less than a year, but I’ve spent that time exposing California’s financial situation – shouting from the mountain tops the true condition of our fiscal mess.
California’s unfunded pension and retiree medical liabilities leave the state over $300 billion in debt. When you add in the backlog for road repair, along with the state’s ongoing net deficit in its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), that number grows to $471 billion. That’s almost half a trillion dollars of looming debt!
Yet, the legislature continues to celebrate the $6 billion or so of “extra revenues” that have been forecast to come from an economy that’s doing slightly better than last year.
With half a trillion of looming debt, we need to ask our lawmakers, “What extra money?”
In my short-time in the State Senate, I’ve fought to stop extra spending and to expose the growing mountain of debt. And, the efforts are paying off. Even Governor Brown has, for the first time ever, acknowledged that California’s pensions include at least a $220 billion unfunded liability.
My focus is creating a lean, efficient, and fiscally sound state government. That includes bringing an unprecedented level of transparency to the state’s budgeting operations and fighting for a budget framework that pays down our debts before incurring new obligations.
It’s time to fix this mess, without leaving it to our children and grandchildren. That’s what I’m fighting for.
California has the highest income tax, sales tax, gas tax (when cap-and-trade is added in) and the 4th highest corporate taxes. We can’t afford to raise taxes. But, that’s exactly what the majority in the legislature tried last year. We fought against their plan to raise gas taxes, and we won.
Now the same group wants to raise property tax and reverse the Proposition 13 taxpayer protections. But, I’ll lead the fight against that too.
I’ll also look for areas where we can reduce taxes to incentivize the return of businesses and jobs back to our state.
Jobs and Small Business Growth
California is rated the worst place to grow businesses, for 11 years in a row. The state’s regulatory and tax systems make California one of the least economically competitive in the nation.
I’ve only been in the Senate a short time, but I’m already working on exposing the job-killing regulatory and taxes. That includes introducing a bill that requires regulations to either be reviewed for effectiveness, or ended outright.
California has to peel off the layer upon layer of government mandates. Otherwise, the state will continue to earn the reputation as the worst place to create jobs.
Government has an obligation to ensure pension systems like CalPERS and CalSTRS are sustainable and solvent. But the legislature has punted this issue down the road, and California’s pension debt, along with the unfunded promised medical coverage for government retirees, have grown to $300 billion. That includes:
|CalPERS Pensions:||$68 billion|
|CalSTRS Pensions:||$124 billion|
|UC Pensions:||$34 billion|
|Retiree Medical:||$74 billion|
In Orange County, I’ve served on one of the largest county retirement boards in the state and nation. There are a number of areas where common sense modifications taken now could assist in assuring the sustainability of public employee defined benefit pension plans, while also protecting California taxpayers.
Governor Brown now admits that this problem is so massive, that its “tempting to ignore it.” We can’t ignore this crisis any longer. Assuming that this lurking financial obligation will take care of itself is not a solution.
As a newly elected Senator, I took Caltrans to task for the 3,500 extra engineers they had on staff. The cost alone is half a billion dollars. And, what we discovered is that this bloated agency had members who were golfing on public time – 55 days of golf!
It’s no wonder that Californians pay $501,000 per mile of road maintenance – the 6th highest total in the nation. Even with that high total, our roads rank 45th out of 50 in condition.
Caltrans just hasn’t been doing its job. And, now it’s estimated that California’s backlog of road maintenance will cost $54 billion to fix.
At the same time, 64% of Caltrans projects are over-budget. That’s according to Caltrans’ own budget numbers!
We need immediate reform at Caltrans, and that doesn’t mean giving them more tax dollars. Rather, we need a top-to-bottom review and reorganization to make Caltrans the most efficient agency in the nation.