Friday, March 11, 2011

Math Meets Political Power

Math is winning, what a surprise. (This is a recurring theme at The Scratching Post.) Today's U-T headline about the California budget dilemma is a case in point:

Democrats Confronted with the Limits of Power

In last November's election, voters removed the requirement for a two-thirds majority to pass California's budget. Democrats control both legislative houses and the governor's mansion, so their job should be easy, right? Just pass the budget for crying out loud. But wait: Democrats can pass a budget without Republican support. But they cannot pass tax increases.
And the Democrats don’t want to use their newfound clout to push through a budget that gets by only on the revenue projected for the coming fiscal year, especially after the expiration of $11 billion in temporary tax increases.
But shouldn't they be able to close the budget gap without tax increases as has been done in other states? Not if you lack the will to confront the unions.
But Brown and his allies have come under pressure from interest groups, especially the public employee unions, to oppose any spending limits or changes to the pension system. This has led to a recurrence of the same kind of partisan frustration that has marked past budget stalemates.
This is why I want the Republicans to prevent any ballot measure for tax increases to even come to a vote, Governor Brown refuses to deal with the main cause of our budget deficit, union pension promises. Don't believe me? Read Adam Summers' excellent summary at Reason. A snippet:
  • California’s public pension and retiree health and dental care expenditures have quintupled since fiscal year 1998-99, from about $1 billion to $5 billion this year. Retirement spending is expected to triple again - to $15 billion - within the next decade.
  • Since 1998, California’s state workforce has grown by 31 percent and taxpayers now pay for more than 356,000 state workers.
  • Since 2008, California has added over 13,000 employees to the state payroll during this recession.
  • California taxpayers are paying pensions that exceed $100,000 a year to over 12,000 former state and local government workers, including more than 9,000 state and local employees covered by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and over 3,000 former school administrators or teachers covered under the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS).
Without getting employees to contribute more to their retirement and medical plans and getting retirees to contribute to their medical, this will bankrupt the state no matter what cuts and tax increases are imposed. Unless Jerry Brown deals with the union pension mess, our state is doomed. The situation is little changed from the Schwarzenegger administration:

We should be contacting our Republican legislators to demand that they keep tax increases off the ballot until the unions negotiate on pension and medical care reform.

Cross posted to

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