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Marin, Sonoma County, CA November 7, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

Michael Hartnett on the Budget

By Michael Hartnett

Candidate for Member of the State Assembly; District 6

This information is provided by the candidate
California has had more than its share of budget problems over the last few years, having gone from a record surplus during the boom years of the late 1990's to record deficits a couple of years later when the bubble burst. Under our current governor, the state is moving in the right direction again. Revenue is way up, and the deficit has been closed to "just" $3 Billion, one tenth of what it was three years ago.

What is remarkable is that Governor Schwarzenegger has managed to improve our fiscal picture without raising taxes. However, there are many challenges ahead. Our State Employees' Pension Fund remains underfunded by about $6 Billion and our credit rating is second worst in the country. Interest paid on the debt is 6% of the budget, a near record level. There is work to be done.

1. Tax revenue continues to rise, exceeding the rate of inflation the last two years. However, spending has too. I will not vote for a new government spending program without cutting another.

2. The pension system needs fixing NOW + not in ten years when there will be massive retirements. We need to find a way so that rank-and file employees have a secure retirement, but at the same time contain costs so that the entire system goes broke. If spending on entitlements continues to rise, other parts of the budget suffer, like parks, schools, roads and health care. See Issues- pension reform.

3. Under the Davis Administration, thousands of new employees were hired, to the detriment of the state budget. I favor a hiring freeze, cutting the state payroll through attrition and retirement. Unnecessary programs and be eliminated this way and employees reassigned.

4. I agree with the governor that there are too many regulatory boards at too many levels. Those who sit on such boards are well-compensated for just a few days of work a month. We can achieve the same oversight without so many overlapping layers of bureaucracy.

5. The State Prison System needs reform. I think violent and repeat criminals should be locked up, but many in our system are there for minor, non-violent offenses like drug possession. These low-risk offenders can be given community service, drug treatment and vocational training at a lower cost than incarcerating them. Building prisons is expensive and the prison guards union is the most powerful and well compensated in the state. Let's find the most cost-effective way of keeping the public safe from criminals, not the most politically expedient.

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