Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
You could hear plaintive violins behind the words of California Assemblyman Mike Gatto last week as the Los Angeles Democrat lamented state Controller John Chiang’s decision not to pay legislators from June 16 and onward.
“I halted a fulfilling private sector career path to enter public service,” wept Gatto. “I now have to explain to my wife and daughter that we won’t be able to pay the bills because a politician chose to grandstand at our expense.”
What Chiang did was honor the will of the electorate. Voters in 2010 – by a 55 percent majority – passed ballot Proposition 25, providing that if the constitutional June 15 budget deadline was missed, lawmakers would not be paid. Further, Proposition 58 – passed with a 71 percent majority in 2004 – mandated that the state budget must be balanced.
The budget adopted this June 15 by Democratic majorities should be dubbed the “Keep Our Paychecks Coming Act of 2011,” because the unbalanced fiscal plan was adopted for that purpose only.
As for Gatto’s job history: His online biographies are short on dates, but he did some pro bono work, then was on the staff of a Los Angeles city councilman, labored five years for Rep. Brad Sherman, “served in the administrations of two Los Angeles mayors” and finally was hired by a law firm. This doesn’t leave much time for a “fulfilling private sector career path,” especially for one determined to get into politics.
And, he shouldn’t waste time explaining things to his daughter. She’s just a year old.
(For the record: Gatto’s “public service” nets him $95,291 a year, plus tax-free per diem of $142 per day when the Legislature is in session, plus a $300 per month transportation allowance.)
One of the fascinating features of the “budget” was a provision requiring special additional tax payments from citizens living in areas of high wildfire fire danger.
Clearly, the Democrats are onto something here, but their unbalanced budget failed to capitalize on the following possibilities:
- People living in flood zones also should pay higher taxes. Call it a levee levy.
- Similarly, people living where high winds might damage their homes should be taxed commensurate with their risk.
- The coast also should be subject to such taxes, as the California littoral faces the threat of tsunamis.
- And let us not forget earthquake zones. These stretch from the northern border to the southern, and periodically require the state to expend stupendous sums for disaster relief. Undoubtedly, folks living in these zones should pay – in advance.
- State news has been filled this past week with stories of heroic river rescues as the hot season impels folks to go rafting on our rivers. River rescues are expensive. Anybody living within a day’s drive of a raftable river should pay a special impost.
- Golden State topography ranges from sea level to over 14,000 feet, and people living in the higher elevations are the most subject to solar ultraviolet radiation. Hence, they tend to get more sunburns, and from this – one may extrapolate – more skin cancer requiring state paid medical treatment. Anybody living above 1,500 feet above sea level must pay up.
- In the latter regard, from time to time, other unusual “disease clusters” show up on California’s demographic map. Residents in cluster regions ought to pay extra, because state expenditures for health care will be high where they live.
- Furthermore, in certain areas of the state – primarily in the urban centers – crime is a constant threat. These areas demand above-average spending on police protection. Therefore, their residents should shell out extra taxes for that protection. This burden would fall most heavily on the poor, but that’s just one of the costs of being poor, and there’s no reason it should fall on the state as a whole.
California’s budget deficit demands creative solutions, and the high-fire-danger fee shows the Democrats are certainly thinking “out of the box.” We’re sure they will take the above under consideration.
Punish the voters: Californians don’t want their taxes raised, so the Dems – who wish to raise taxes – are threatening to close scores of state parks. The legislators never will cop to it, but this is the “punish the voters” strategy.
Under this gambit, lawmakers look for programs everybody likes, then they declare there is nowhere else to cut, and that they could save the programs if only they could raise taxes.
Oddly, pension reform – needed to deal with a multi-billion-dollar unfunded liability – seems to be going nowhere.
Intent to offend: During the NBC network apology for “editing” the Pledge of Allegiance, broadcaster Dan Hicks never specified that the words “under God” were omitted. Instead he said, “Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance … was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone, and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”
Of course the editing wasn’t done to upset anyone. It was done to advance an agenda, and the exponents of that agenda were so numb they didn’t think anybody would notice. File it with President Obama’s omission of “the Creator” from the preamble of the Declaration of Independence.