As we all know, California is in crisis. Half a million people have lost their jobs over the last year. Others have taken pay cuts. Many have lost their homes.
Yet, in Sacramento, it is business as usual. Remarkably, as California slashes services and enacts $16 billion in new taxes, the state bureaucracy is protected and actually getting bigger. Since 1998, government spending in California has grown by 80 percent and the bureaucracy has increased by 28 percent.
Is California 80 percent better? Of course not, and taxpayers have had it.
I oppose Proposition 1A (and its working partner, Proposition 1B). Proposition 1A is being sold as spending reform, but it is not. Proposition 1A is actually a sustained tax increase masquerading as reform, and it is terrible for California. For starters, Proposition 1A extends $16 billion in tax increases for two years and makes us among the highest-taxed people in America. The last thing we need right now is two more years of higher taxes on sales, income and cars.
Moreover, Proposition 1A ties spending to revenues and could actually prevent the state from saving money. California should only spend what it needs to provide public services. The rest should be saved, or returned to taxpayers. It’s our money, after all.
And here’s what politicians aren’t telling you. Even if Proposition 1A passes, California will still be deeply in debt – according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, $8 billion in debt to be exact. That means Sacramento will probably call for more tax increases after the special election.
The real problem is that Californians are stuck with government they can’t afford. Sacramento needs to deal with that reality. Before asking taxpayers for more money, government should cut bureaucracy, cut spending further, improve efficiency and provide better services for less. Businesses do this all the time; why can’t government?
I oppose Proposition 1C because it is an ill-conceived scheme to borrow against future lottery revenues. In business, borrowing against future revenues, in essence borrowing against what you may make someday, is considered reckless. The same is true in government.
I support Propositions 1D and 1E, which reallocate money from special funds (for children’s services and mental health programs) that have a surplus to protect similar general fund programs. And I support Proposition 1F, which prohibits state politicians from getting raises whenever there is a deficit.
Time has run out. We cannot just keep throwing higher taxes on hardworking Californians indefinitely. We need courageous leadership in Sacramento now. And we need leaders who will honestly address the problem of a bloated bureaucracy and inefficient government Californians can no longer afford.
Meg Whitman is the former president and CEO of eBay. She has formed an exploratory committee to seek the Republican nomination for governor of California in 2010.