Left and right can take blame for budget woes
SACRAMENTO — The technology boom went bust and dried up the stream of cash the state of California enjoyed in the late 1990s.
Economics in the state are now close to normal, but its government is left $26 billion in the hole. The reason: because it used the burst of revenue to give the Republican and Democrats what they wanted — a reduction in taxes for Republicans and and increase in spending for Democrats, said veteran Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, who has covered state politics for more than 40 years.
Walters spoke alongside two other journalists who cover the state on Wednesday as part of the California Newspaper Publisher Association’s Governmental Affairs Day.
“They are spending $12 or $13 million a year more than they take in,” Walters told a group of publishers in Sacramento at the Grand Sheraton. “They punted because of the election year. It’s like missing a car payment and now they have to make two payments.”
Greg Lucas, state capitol reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, said the budget deficit looks grim but it will look less bleak in coming months. He said the real story is the state’s dramatic growth rate.
“It looks horrible, austere and Draconian, but it’s going to change dramatically in the next 5 or 6 months,” said Lucas of the budget deficit.
About 150,000 new homes were built last year, when really 250,000 were needed, Lucas added.
“Growth is the underlying issue — including in this budget crisis,” Walters said. “The fact is we have 600,000 more of us every year and that’s what’s driving it.”
George Skelton, a state political columnist who writes for the Los Angeles Times, was also on the panel. He was asked if term limits have contributed to the budget crisis. His answer was yes.
Skelton said term limits have impacted government because elected officials don’t know the system as well as they once did.
“We’ve got a budget chairman whose only been in the Senate two years,” he said.
— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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