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The state of California should give taxpayers their money back

By in Press Enterprise on February 11, 2018

By The Editorial Board

With the state of California projecting a large budget surplus for the next fiscal year, lawmakers have serious choices to make.

Assuming continued economic growth, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office had projected surpluses of as much as $5-6 billion a year through 2021-22 back in November.

While it is a significant amount of money, California lawmakers have proven more than capable of blowing through large wads of cash.

Since fiscal year 2011-12, California’s general fund spending has ballooned from about $86 billion to $125 billion in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The record-breaking spending trend will continue with the next fiscal year, with Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal calling for just under $132 billion in General Fund spending.

Such significant spending increases have come on the backs of increasingly burdened California taxpayers.

Brown has stressed to the Legislature the importance of fiscal discipline, given the likelihood of a recession in coming years. Along similar lines, the LAO has advised the Legislature to consider the many uncertainties ahead — including potential policy changes at the federal level with respect to things like health care — and to consider how much they’d like to prepare for the next recession.

Considering that the California Legislature best reflects the saying by satirist P.J. O’Rourke that “giving money and power to government is like giving whisky and car keys to teenage boys,” these words of warning may very well fall on deaf ears.

It’s not surprising that politicians like Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee, have taken word of a surplus to call for new obligations like expanding Medi-Cal and early education.

These things might sound nice, but when the next recession occurs, there probably won’t be enough money to prevent deep and dramatic cuts to services Californians deserve.

It probably also isn’t lost on many California […]    

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