Also published at The Orange County Register
When I was elected to represent the people of the 37th Senate District in Sacramento, I resolved to fix the things we could fix — the things that we must fix in order for California to have a prosperous future.
What I have observed is that there is an ongoing effort by many in Sacramento to fix the things we cannot, while ignoring the major issues that affect the lives of every single Californian, not only in my district but throughout this great state.
Recently, the state Legislature approved Senate Bill 32, a bill that takes aim at global warming by requiring California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030.
This sounds like a worthy goal, but it’s a goal that is going to cost every California resident and business more money from their pockets. California’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is approximately 1 percent of the worldwide total. So, no matter how much California tightens its belt when it comes to reducing emissions, the fact is that the state’s global impact is next to nothing.
Many in Sacramento patted themselves on the back for passing a bill they believe will save the world. Meanwhile, my constituents are concerned with the more pressing issues — like California’s ticking time bomb, the public employee pension system. Or our retiree medical costs. Nationwide, California claims the top prize as having the largest unfunded liabilities for both, and continues to be the least economically competitive state in the nation.
And what about the mass exodus of businesses? Almost 9,000 of them, over the last seven years, have chosen to leave California and operate out of state. You’ll find many of them in Texas.
My colleagues engaged in a passionate debate about global warming and the need for California to be the world leader on the issue, but where is the dialogue about fixing California’s balance sheet, which carries the largest unrestricted net deficit in the United States?
What this state desperately needs is balance and restraint, not more feel-good legislation and disconnects. Once the high of SB32 wears off, will the Legislature address the gorilla in the room? California must stop mortgaging its future and prepare for the next economic recession. Even Gov. Jerry Brown warned it’s coming.
Here’s a disconnect: This year, legislative Democrats approved a 50 percent increase in the minimum wage, which will cause far too many small businesses to close their doors, costing jobs and hurting workers. Increasing electricity rates will also cost Californians more, and a new tax is on the table that would hike California’s gas prices by 17 cents per gallon.
Piling on more cost pressures and tax increases is not my idea of balance or restraint, and it’s not what California residents and businesses need.
The Legislature passed hundreds of bills in the final days of the legislative session, but it must remember that there is a looming fiscal downturn on the horizon for this state. Sacramento must show restraint and focus on its spending priorities.
Instead of passing feel-good legislation with little impact, like SB32, the Legislature needs to focus on the issues we can fix — issues like paying down debt, putting more money away in our state’s Rainy Day Fund and prioritizing practical transportation needs over a costly high-speed rail project and a severely mismanaged Caltrans.
There’s a reason for the story about the camel. I fear that SB32 is one more straw that will break California’s back.