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Business Growth & Tax Policy Committee Meeting
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is
the voice of business in L.A. County. Founded in 1888, the Chamber promotes
a prosperous economy and quality of life in the Los Angeles region.
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After a record 85 days of legislative deadlock and partisan inflexibility, California finally has a budget. Unfortunately, despite the hundreds of legislative hours spent on this year’s budgeting process, no one is satisfied because the final package relies on sleight of hand rather than sound policy to close the $15 billion deficit. And just like an amateur magic trick, the illusion isn’t very good and simply puts us in a deeper fiscal predicament next year.
This year’s boom-and-bust budget should serve as a resounding wake up call – California needs true budget reform. California is too financially dependent on volatile income taxes and capital gains revenue. Spending on state government programs grows without any meaningful evaluation of efficiency or performance. Budgets require a two-thirds vote hurdle even when no taxes are increased.
It is time for our legislative leaders to keep the first promise they made to California when this budget crisis began earlier this year: commission a bi-partisan, blue ribbon budget and tax reform panel comprised of experts from the public and private sector. The L.A Area Chamber supports this long overdue top-down examination. Nothing should be off the table including sacred cows such as public employee pensions, Proposition 13 and Proposition 58. Successfully meeting California’s financial challenges requires us to look at every option, no matter how controversial.
The citizens of California want real budget reform not illusionary reform. Too often, elected officials commission first-rate “reform” panels only to let their recommendations gather dust on a bookshelf. Real reform has to be more than a thick binder of paper and a couple of press conferences. The governor and both sides of the Legislature must commit themselves to a process that will undoubtedly face the wrath of powerful interest groups. While it will be difficult, we must all keep an open mind in this process of evaluating how our government is run and in the end, how we should pay for it.
Californians also have an integral role to play in this process and it begins on Election Day, Nov 4. The first step is to vote yes on the Chamber-sponsored Proposition 11 to make politicians more accountable. Former Gov. Gray Davis, a passionate supporter of the proposition, reminded Chamber members last Friday that when legislators draw their own districts, they have a 99 percent chance of winning the election. As Davis noted, with the gerrymandered districts we have today, “there is no incentive for action and no penalty for inaction.”
This year’s budget illusion is a wake up call. California must reform its financial operations and budgeting process or we will all be the losers for years to come. Join the L.A. Area Chamber in urging our legislative leaders to keep their promise and form a blue-ribbon task force on budget and tax reform immediately.
And that's The Business Perspective.
Gary L. Toebben
President & CEO
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
The Business Perspective is a weekly opinion piece by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Samuel Garrison, Vice President of Public Policy.
Gary Toebben, President & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
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