By Dan Reid
The terms “fiscal sanity” and “California” seem about as diametrically opposed as magnets with similar ends. No matter how high taxes become, no matter how much state spending increases,
and no matter how expensive life gets for Californians, lawmakers in Sacramento continue to tax and spend the state into financial oblivion.
This was on full display recently, when one of the state’s lofty goals proved to be nothing more than a folly with a hefty price tag. Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the high-speed rail project that would have connected San Francisco to Los Angeles was being shut down. The reason? Unsurprisingly, the project was getting too expensive, with conservative estimates pegging the project at roughly $77 billion.
Unfortunately, California taxpayers aren’t free from all wasteful rail projects. The state still intends to go forward with the Central Valley portion of the high-speed rail project, the costs of which rose by $1.8 billion this year, according to Mercury News. That brings the total cost of the project to over $12.4 billion. I suspect that number will rise significantly before all is said and done.
Such wanton spending is the modus operandi of state government, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Just this year, Gov. Newsom presented a bloated spend-a-thon budget to the tune of $213 billion dollars. Not all of what the state is spending on is bad—priorities such as wildfire prevention and public debt reduction are on the list—but much of it is a nickel-and-dime assault on our finances.
One such example is the Robert F. Kennedy Health Insurance Plan. It’s an old government-subsidized healthcare plan meant to provide California farmworkers with reliable healthcare. A few years back, then-Gov. Jerry Brown approved a bill that provides $3 million annually to the fund.
The only problem is that the plan doesn’t really help farmworkers. According to author Miriam Pawel, the RFK plan has fewer than 3,000 participants. Most of the money allocated to the program goes to supporting the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. The Los Angeles Times reports that officials at the California Department of Finance claim there’s very little oversight over the program.
On top of that, the UFW’s spokesperson refuses to answer why they even needed taxpayer money in the first place. So, in essence, the state government is spending taxpayer dollars to prop up a union for no
expressed reason and without accountability. Even worse, this is all for a union that has less than 8,000 members nationwide and in some circles is described as corrupt.
Take for instance the recent Gerawan Farming fiasco. In that case, the UFW had abandoned farmworkers for decades, then tried to impose a new contract that lowered workers’ take-home pay. Thankfully, the workers protested and voted the union out, but the UFW and its government allies used strong-arm tactics to block the vote for five years before courts intervened. This is the same union that was ordered to pay a former employee $1.3 million after they withheld back pay and subjected him to unfair labor practices—talk about a serious case of “do as I say, not as I do.”
The fact that taxpayer money would go to support union bullies is beyond outrageous. And it’s just one piece of a very disturbing financial pie in California.
Far too many California lawmakers clearly lack regard for how much money they spend and clearly don’t care that hardworking Californians are footing the bill. Just this year, some 51 California cities jacked up their sales taxes – in order to make sure they could meet their budgetary obligations. All this while the cost of living continues to rise and housing costs remain stratospheric.
This pattern of excessive taxing and spending cannot continue if California wants to be a national and global leader. Our state needs smart, efficient fiscal policies that don’t place an undue burden on our citizens. If lawmakers refuse to accept this, maybe it’s time we change who we elect.
Dan Reid is a city councilman in Lawndale, CA.