Budget deficit as opportunity
A very wise man I worked for once said, “If you approach a problem as a problem, it will always be a problem. If you look at it as a chance to improve things, it can be an opportunity.”
This is exactly the viewpoint our elected officials must take in facing the current budget deficit. It’s an opportunity to reduce the tax burden on the taxpayers to our ability to pay for it.
A few years ago, when both the federal and state governments were running surpluses, the surplus was passed down to county and city governments as well as to school districts. These extra funds were used to increase the existing budget levels, and now all these agencies are contending that these are base budgets that can’t be reduced. In fact, they are simply budgets that were inflated during periods of prosperity.
From the figures released, it appears that the deficit at the state level is in the range of 10 percent. In my opinion, based on my experience in both the private and public sectors, there are very few organizations, both public and private, that cannot undergo a 10 percent reduction in costs periodically and still remain effective.
Over time, new services and programs are added during periods of prosperity.
When revenues go down, private organizations are forced to cut back their costs to meet existing revenues. Analyses are made to determine what is essential and necessary for the organization to meet its goals and what can be reduced or eliminated. There is no reason that we shouldn’t expect our governmental agencies to do the same.
Come to think of it, don’t we the taxpayers face the same problems? When our income goes down – and many of us are going through that now – we have to reassess our priorities and cut out what we can’t afford. Why shouldn’t the governmental agencies we support do the same?
Now, that isn’t to say that what ends up being cut or eliminated isn’t important and beneficial to someone. The point is, there is only so much tax revenue available. One of the primary reasons we have elected officials is for them to represent us in deciding what we absolutely need in governmental services and what we have to do without.
In the 1960s, when Ronald Reagan was running for governor, the Republicans were sponsoring a state constitutional amendment, Proposition 20. This amendment would limit any increase in the state budget to the percentage increase in the state’s taxpayers’ income for the prior year. In other words, if our income went up 2.5 percent, that’s the most the state’s budget could go up. If our income went down, so must the state budget by the same percentage. It lost, of course, because it evidently made too much sense.
During the Proposition 20 campaign, Mr. Reagan made a very profound statement that should be carved in stone and hung in every city, county, state, and school district office. He said, “There will always be more good ideas than there is money to pay for.”
I don’t know about you, but I get plenty of ideas I can’t pay for. What I do is file them away, and when I can afford something new, I go over the multitude of ideas and determine which one I really want. When there isn’t enough money to pay for all my “ideas,” I eliminate the ones I can do without. The problem with our governments is that all too often they keep paying for”‘new ideas” and never assess if they are really needed and cost-effective.
The bottom line right now is that we don’t have enough money to pay for everything that is currently being done by the state, counties, cities, and schools. All of us have our opinions on what areas should receive priority and what areas could be cut back.
The job of our elected officials is to make the tough decisions and eliminate or reduce the unnecessary and maintain, and increase if needed, the absolutely necessary.
Ronald P. Avanzino lives in Penn Valley.
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