Legislators' pure self interest

Steven Greenhut: Senate President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, told a group of media gathered outside the Senate chambers that, yes, the state will have a budget by the deadline tomorrow. That possibility became more likely after the governor admitted that he is open to various budget gimmicks that he had previously insisted that he would not embrace. Not only does this reinforce that Brown is a phony, a non-reformer who serves mainly as the protector of the public-sector unions that elected him to office, but that legislators cannot possibly put the public interest above their own interest. The reason for my latter conclusion: Apparently, Prop. 25’s requirement that legislators permanently forfeit their own pay for the period between the budget deadline and the final passage of the budget.

I figured that element of Prop. 25 was a fake reform. The proposition was designed by liberals to make it easier for the state government to increase taxes. The “no pay for legislators” was a great item to throw in there as a way to gin up support among reform-minded voters. It made great fodder for TV ads. But I was apparently wrong. Legislators I talked to reminded me that about 80 percent of their colleagues are living paycheck to paycheck and are extremely worried about losing their main source of income. For most of these legislators, this is the best gig and the best pay they will ever get.

So we might get a deal because of it. Of course, it won’t be a good deal. We’re looking at more phony budgets and more “kick the can down the road” proposals. The bottom line is the state outspends its resources in good times and bad. The Democrats refuse to embrace reform. They refuse to consider outsourcing and pension changes. They will not take on the unions that run the state Capitol. And the Republicans generally aren’t that much better even if their rhetoric is sometimes convincing. However this plays out, there will be no real solution. Even if taxes are put to voters, the voters will say no.

California marches closer to the precipice.



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