New budget a great bipartisan effort
The 2004-2005 California budget is a step in the right direction. While not perfect, the budget deal was a bipartisan effort and was reached by partnering with those in education and local government. People with a diverse set of views and interests came to the table to participate in this budget process. Undoubtedly, we still need to fix the systemic overspending of the state, and there is a great amount of work to do in the future, but the budget for the upcoming year is the beginning of fiscal recovery for California.
One of the greatest achievements in the budget negotiations is that local governments will no longer have to be afraid of the state taking their money, thereby endangering their police and fire services. In exchange for short- term assistance to the state, the new budget allows the state, in a fiscal emergency, to borrow local government funds only two times during the next decade and forces the state to pay back each county government with interest. Unfortunately, the majority party held the budget deal hostage because they wanted to continue raiding local government funding.
Keeping jobs in California is a top priority, and there are two important components of the state budget that help us keep jobs in the north state. First, there are “no new taxes.” The fact is, business owners in California are already overtaxed and the budget deal recognizes this reality. By stopping these new tax proposals, businesses will be able to provide more jobs that will help stimulate California’s economy. Additionally, our citizens will not face higher taxes or fees to live in Northern California. This will make our area more competitive in getting employment opportunities to locate here.
Second, the “Sue Your Boss Law” has been dramatically reformed. This ill-conceived law was signed at the end of Governor Davis’ administration and allowed for numerous frivolous lawsuits against employers. The revisions put in place by the budget keep workers protected while curtailing frivolous lawsuits.
Several possible fee increases were pursued during the budget negotiations. Despite these attempts, the budget does not include the new fee increases on timber production, Coastal Commission activities and CDF charges that were proposed. At the same time, the budget provides $18.5 million to rural sheriffs and funds $1.2 billion in long overdue transportation spending.
Education continues to be strongly supported in this budget. Funding increased by more than $280 per pupil in grades K-12, plus higher education was supported with the budget also providing more than $600 million of new money for community colleges. Students who were initially turned away from state colleges by Davis’ budget last year are now being granted entry because of this additional funding.
Unfortunately, though we fought for the budget negotiations to correct more of the structural spending problems, there was an absolute unwillingness on the part of the majority party to deal with these issues in this budget.
As a bright spot, working with the governor was a refreshing change from the irresponsible leadership in the past. Given the realities of the Legislature’s current make up, all in all the Legislature crafted a budget that is a strong beginning to improving California’s finances.
Rick Keene (R-Chico) is a California state assemblyman representing the 3rd District, which includes western Nevada County.
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Today there was a fire at Idaho Maryland and Brunswick roads. Fortunately our amazing response team was able to put it out quickly and save our community.