Whether we like it or not, whether we want to think about it or not, and whether our elected officials care about it or not, a state as large as California is going to have big needs, as well as correspondingly big programs to address those needs. As with anything related to fiscal planning, the key is balance. Not just balancing the budget, as required by the state’s constitution, but balancing priorities in the form of the programs and initiatives that are being funded, to ensure that the best interests of the state, on as many levels as possible, are fully addressed in the most strategic and prudent fashion possible.
This state has come a long way from the dark days of 2008, during the deepest depths of the Great Recession, when state revenues dropped so precipitously that the State Controller was forced to issue IOU’s in lieu of payments due to lack of cash on hand. Thankfully those days are over, but one clear lesson remains: when the next recession comes (and, like death and taxes it will surely come, though hopefully not anytime soon), California’s elected leadership must ensure that we are fully prepared with sufficient funds in reserve to manage any contingency. The only way to do that is to live within our means today with an eye on investing for growth while saving for the future.
One of the unintended consequences of the imposition of term limits on California’s legislature is the degree to which an elected official’s short-term interests can diverge or even run counter to the state’s long-term interests and prospects. The improvement of California’s economy, in conjunction with the additional revenues raised by Proposition 30 (whose approval by the voters in 2012 surprised many experts), has improved the state’s financial position to the point of its current surplus.
Make no mistake— elected officials who will likely be long gone by the next recession have a powerful personal incentive to spend every cent of that surplus in ways that support their own political agendas. Governor Brown is to be commended for his sound fiscal strategy and firm leadership during his most recent service, and for holding the line on allocating as much of California’s current budget surplus as possible to the “rainy day fund” which was created through voter approval of Proposition 2 in November of 2014.
Say what you want about Governor Brown, but there’s no assurance that his successor will be as committed to taking such a tough fiscal line. That’s why you need a state senator who will insist on it, while also ensuring that our priorities are sound, and that all interests are represented, especially yours. As your state senator, I intend to be a thoughtful, principled, and very active participant in the fiscal conversation in Sacramento, unswayed by political calculation or partisan coercion, and immune to pressure from every special interest except the one that really counts: you.