Heads up: Intervention-time in Sacramento

Have you seen that TV show where concerned families conduct an intervention to snatch a loved one from the jaws of addiction? The intervention inevitably leads to change – either the addict changes or the people around him change.

You, the California Legislature, are addicted to ideological posturing and debate, to putting off until next year what you can’t solve now, and to taking local tax dollars all the while shifting more programmatic responsibilities to counties. This has got to stop.

What happens in Sacramento has direct consequences where we live. Thirty percent of Tuolumne County’s roughly $143 million operating budget is dependent on property tax and other funds that pass through the State. Or funds that are supposed to pass through.

Already this year, $1.4 million gas tax payments have been “delayed” and the Legislature is making noises about delaying other payments to counties. You are taking an ever-increasing share of our property taxes — from $757,000 in ‘92 to over $6 million this year.

I get that it’s complicated, it’s hard to win a 2/3 vote, and the economy is down. And unfortunately, I get that we will have to make more cuts when you do finally approve a budget because there’s a $15 billion shortfall.

What I don’t get is how you can unflinchingly hold our people and your people hostage so you can make partisan hay. And I don’t get why you go on passing laws if you don’t know how much money you can spend since you don’t have a budget.

Am I missing something? I don’t think so.

Tuolumne County is not as hard hit as some counties, but that doesn’t mean we won’t face devastating cuts. We approved our preliminary budget in June based on a best guess of what could happen. We planned on an overall 7% cut in our budget. We didn’t account for a raid on Prop 1A funds (the initiative that supposedly ensured the State would no longer take local government funds). If successful, that raid could cost us $1.3 million in property taxes alone.

Depending on what you ultimately adopt, this is what our people could experience when you finally adopt a budget:

  • No increase in our present average of three deputies per shift to patrol 2,200+ sq miles and protect 57k residents, despite increasing crime.
  • Field insufficient firemen and women to respond to emergencies and put out fires – current response times of up to an hour in some areas of the county will increase.
  • Lay off 16 road workers – as a percentage of the whole department, a crippling impact – and significantly reduce snow plowing and pothole patching on 600+ miles of county maintained roads.
  • Further reductions in programs that serve seniors, disadvantaged children, and the hungry.
  • Despite privatizing our county hospital last year and closing our acute psychiatric facility, long-term health care, adult day health care, and physical therapy services this year, if 10% cuts to Medi-Cal are upheld, we’ll see a further $370,000 reduction.
  • Libraries and recreation programs will be reduced – probably significantly.
  • Further staff layoffs, frozen positions, and our dismantled building code enforcement department won’t be reinstated.
  • No more contributions to local community events and worthy organizations like arts councils.
  • Budgetary cuts will go deeper since they have to be made over 8 or 9 months instead of 12.

Again, I know these are very tough times. I understand that it’s complicated and that every one of you – Democrat and Republican – is trying to do what you believe is best for the State. In fact, if it weren’t that we’re desperate, I might engage in some partisan ideological debate myself. But I don’t – we don’t – have that luxury.

So Legislators, don’t put off facing your addiction for another year. Have the courage and self-discipline to stop legislating additional costly programs now. Cut existing State programs instead of taking more of local property tax and sales tax revenues. These are the only discretionary monies we have left.

We are a record 2 months into the State of California’s new fiscal year without a budget and you’ve strung yourselves out with a $15 billion dollar a year habit and we’re paying the price. The status quo doesn’t work for us anymore. The Legislature needs to change and we the people are standing up to require that you do just that.

It’s time to address your addiction head on. Figure out what needs to be done to turn the State around and give us a budget we all can live with. Don’t take more from local services and don’t add to the burden on the people we all serve.

You’ve got to change. It’s intervention time in Sacramento.

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