Jeff Ackerman: The Terminator should start at the top |

Jeff Ackerman: The Terminator should start at the top

Who am I to tell the Terminator who he can or can’t fire?

I mean he’s got bigger guns than I have and we all knew when we elected him he was going to save “Ca-lee-for-knee-ah.”

So what if we won’t have anyone left to send out the tax bills, or freeway speeding tickets. And who cares if the state printing department won’t be able to print the 10,000 copies of the latest bill to ban remote controls because they make people fat.

If the Terminator can’t terminate 10,000 state employees, who can?

I just wish Arnold would have started at the top, with those 1,000 or so state jobs that pay $200,000 a year and more. I doubt any of us would miss a beat if those guys never returned to work. I also wish there was a way to stop paying the lawmakers and their staffs, who parade around the Capitol Building wearing hands-free devices on their ears, while whispering to their boss. “Sir, it’s time to wake up. When I say vote, raise your hand.”

Last week I heard our own state senator, Sam Aanestad, was on vacation in Wisconsin while thousands of state employees were getting pink slips. Our newsroom contacted Sam’s aide on Friday and we were told Sam was “working behind the scenes” to fix the problems. You could almost picture Sam working behind the scenes from Wisconsin. “Pass the cheese, please.”

“Yes, but if we fire all of the legislators, the Sacramento restaurants and bars will go broke!” screamed the Sacramento newspaper headlines. The brothels said the same thing when Nevada threatened to send its lawmakers home for the summer.

If California was a business, there would be a “Going Out Of Business” sign on the Capitol Building door today. And the CEO (Arnold) and his board of directors (lawmakers) would have been fired long ago.

That’s the only problem I have with Arnold’s latest move to get the state’s ineffective Legislature to pass a budget that MUST include significant cost cuts (including layoffs) and … yes, Republicans … some modest tax increase. Instead of starting at the bottom with the working stiffs barely getting by from paycheck to paycheck, the governor should have started at the top.

Unfortunately, California is not run like a business. Mostly because taxpayers have deep pockets and all we need to do is raise taxes, hence the latest budget proposal that would generate more than $8 billion in new taxes.

I’ve had this little handbook hanging around my desk for a couple of months now. It’s the latest comparison of 50 states, designed to help you decide where to live and where to open a business. It’s published by The Taxpayers Network, headquartered in Wisconsin, where Sam was vacationing.

As you can imagine, California isn’t looking too good lately. Yes, the weather is much better than Minnesota and you can’t surf in Montana, but the Golden State has lost much of its glow, thanks to a political system that makes many South American nations look pretty clean and efficient.

Here’s a rundown of California’s rankings against the other 49 states:

– 2nd in welfare recipients as a percent of population

– 5th in prison spending

– 17th in inmates per capita (475 of every 100,000 residents are in jail)

– 1st in daily traffic per lane

– 7th in electricity prices

– 7th in homeowner insurance costs

– 17th in auto insurance costs

– 5th in the cost of doing business

– 1st in average pay for government employees ($61,871)

“Yes, but at least we’re smarter than the other states,” you might be muttering. Actually … we’re not as smart as we think, which might explain why we keep voting for incompetent candidates. In fact, there are 46 states that are smarter than California, according to the booklet. Vermont is ranked number one and Massachusetts is ranked second, thanks to Harvard, M.I.T. and a few other brainy institutions. Even the so-called Okies are smarter than the average Californian. Take that, Smartsville.

Our schools are doing well in some categories, ranking 13th in average ACT score in 2007. But our 4th and 8th grade math and reading scores come in at 47th, just below those darned Cajuns from Louisiana.

And even though California’s teachers are the highest paid in the country ($63,640 average), the state is only ranked 29th in terms of public school spending per pupil ($8,834). And teachers probably earn more in California because they have more students per teacher (20.7) than every state but Arizona and Utah.

Higher taxes? California is already the 10th highest in terms of corporate taxes and ranks 32nd in terms of average property tax bills, thanks to Proposition 13.

So as our costs continue to climb and services drop, we ought to take a page from Montana and Minnesota, where they have more hunters and fishermen than any other state. Californians ranked last in terms of percentage of people who hunted or fished in 2006 (legally, anyway). I don’t know if that’s because we’re too stupid to bait a line, or because we prefer whoppers to walleyes and beaches to bass lakes.

It seems logical, then, that Californians should go fish and the Terminator should cut bait.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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