Our View: Prioritizing expenses, cutting extras | SierraSun.com

Our View: Prioritizing expenses, cutting extras

What part of a balanced budget do California legislators not understand? Considering the news that the state is faced with a $14 billion deficit going into the 2008-09 budget year, the answer to that question is apparently they don’t understand anything.

The mandate to balance the budget couldn’t have come any more clear than in 2004 when California voters overwhelmingly approved Prop. 58 ” the California Balanced Budget Act ” on a 71.1 to 28.9 percent vote.

Among the act’s highlights is the requirement that lawmakers enact a balanced budget where General Fund expenditures don’t exceed estimated General Fund revenues. Also, the act:

– Allows the Governor to proclaim a fiscal emergency in specified circumstances, and submit proposed legislation to address the fiscal emergency.

– Requires the Legislature to stop other action and act on legislation proposed to address the emergency.

– Establishes a budget reserve.

– Prohibits any future deficit bonds.

The requirement that state government have a balanced budget gives those in charge only two options when money isn’t there for everything. They either have to make cuts or they need to raise more money. Unfortunately, past practice has seen government go for more money ” by way of increased taxes and fees.

But as layoffs, cutbacks and general belt-tightening start to quake through the private sector, state agencies must begin to look at ways to drastically pare down their expenses ” and yes, payrolls ” before drastic cuts are made on those who can least afford it ” such as the elderly and K-12 students.

Could the ranks of state workers be thinned by offering voluntary buyouts to eligible employees? Surely there are some pork barrel programs that could be eliminated.

No one wants to see California or the nation slip into recession, if we aren’t already there. However, in such times, government should respond the same way businesses and families do: by prioritizing expenses and cutting extras.

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