Special election propostions would create fiscal sanity

This year we faced a $42 billion state budget deficit, the largest in history. There were no easy choices as we grappled with a budget shortfall of this magnitude. In the end, we adopted a budget that was difficult but prevented California from falling into fiscal collapse.

Part of the budget package included Propositions 1A-1F, which will be decided by voters at a statewide Special Election on May 19.

Propositions 1A-1F represent the state's last, best hope for staving off devastating cuts in education, health care, law enforcement, and stabilizing our long-term budget process so California can start climbing out of our deep financial abyss.

They are the product of months of difficult but good-faith negotiations between Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, joined by a Republican governor.

Ultimately, they are the best of tough choices.

Many of the ideas currently before voters have been discussed and debated at length, including the spending limit and rainy day fund that Proposition 1A would put into place.

This budget crisis forced both Republicans and Democrats to work together to do what was best for the people of this state, to sacrifice partisan ideology for the sake of meaningful progress.

This meant $15 billion in severe and permanent spending reductions. Our schools suffered a $9 billion cut. Health care providers were asked to operate on a shoestring budget. Social services were slashed to the bone.

But it also meant temporary revenue increases, if we were to avoid a complete shutdown of our state government, our road and infrastructure projects, and all of the jobs they generate.

After all, we could have cut all the funding for prisons and higher education or fired every single state employee and still not have closed a $42 billion fiscal gap, nearly half the size of our entire budget.

There is more budget trouble ahead as the economy continues to falter and tax revenues decrease even more than originally projected. But this only underscores the importance of approving Propositions 1A through 1F, before our problems grow from inconvenient to insurmountable.

Proposition 1A gets us off our current boom-bust fiscal rollercoaster by putting more money into a savings account for California called a "rainy day" budget stabilization fund. If we pass Proposition 1A, we'll start saving more in good years so we have money in bad.

The benefits of Proposition 1A are meaningful and proven. If California already had a rainy day fund on the books like in most other states, $9 billion in cuts could have been avoided this year.

Proposition 1B ensures that schools will be repaid over time for the cuts they endured because of the budget crisis. Proposition 1C brings in $5 billion in Lottery revenues, so we don't have to raise this money with more taxes or cuts - and makes the Lottery more efficient over time. Propositions 1D and 1E will temporarily move money in the state budget to keep children's health programs up and running during the budget crisis.

Finally, Proposition 1F prohibits legislators, the governor and other elected officials from getting pay raises when our state runs a budget deficit.

If these measures aren't passed, California will lose more than $23 billion in revenue over the next four fiscal years -- on top of the multi-billion dollar deficits recently predicted by the Legislative Analyst's Office.

This would force unavoidable, unimaginable cuts to health care, infrastructure investment, and public safety departments, the economic equivalent of a statewide meltdown.

On May 19, voters have the power to approve a solution that puts the state back on sound fiscal footing, brings sanity to the budget process, and protects ourselves from higher taxes and deeper cuts.

In the face of severe economic circumstances, Propositions 1A-1F may not represent everything everyone wants, but they are exactly what the state of California needs if we are to pull ourselves out of the quagmire of fiscal crisis.

Sen. Kehoe represents the 39th district.

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