Californians Buried in Government Debt

(Best Syndication News) Remember the federal "economic stimulus" bill that was supposed to curtail job losses and prevent our economy from failing? Well, despite the rosy assurances from President Obama and Congress, unemployment remains high and the economy is teetering on the verge of a double-dip recession. The only thing that appears to be "stimulated" is the national debt, which is now a jaw-dropping - and record high - $13.2 trillion.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently laid out a sobering potential future for America as part of its long-term budget outlook, in which the national debt reaches 90 percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2020.

Aggravated by increasingly higher interest on increasingly higher debt, that figure rises to 180 percent by 2035, leading to a fiscal crisis that destabilizes the national economy.

It should come as little surprise that in California, where the state regularly rewrites the book on fiscal irresponsibility, massive debt poses a serious threat to our financial future. In fact, every Californian owes $2,362 in state debt. Not just adults, not just taxpayers, but every man, woman and child. That's almost $10,000 for a family of four. So much for cutting up the credit cards. By comparison, the state debt burden for a Nebraskan is only $15.

Because California's perpetual budget crisis has left Wall Street skeptical of our creditworthiness, our state's bond rating has been repeatedly downgraded. As a result, we're paying more for our debt than are other governments. Debt service is consuming an ever-increasing portion of our already cash-strapped budget: $6 billion last year, and the state treasurer anticipates that number will double to $12 billion by 2016.

In advocating for pension reform, I've pointed out that as a greater share of the state's limited resources must be spent on public employee retirement checks, a lesser share is available to spend on education, transportation, public safety and other priorities. Ballooning interest payments squeeze state spending in the same way. The way these costs are rising it's not difficult to imagine a future where the bulk of your taxes is spent paying off old government projects and financing the retirements of the people who used to work on them.

The indisputable truth is that the government can't spend its way to prosperity any more than you or I can. It defies logic, really, when you consider the fact that every dollar the government spends, including the money politicians boast about injecting into the economy, is a dollar that was first taken out of the economy in the form of taxes.

Last year, personal income in California declined by $40 billion. Unemployment has reached heights not seen since the 1940s. Many Californians have lost their homes and many more are struggling to stay in theirs. With less money to spend, most people are cutting back wherever they can. Over and over you hear talk of frugality being "the new normal."

But not from the government. While revenues have decreased, the overspending in Sacramento continues. Revenues came in $91 million below estimates in the month of July. Meanwhile, California spent more than a billion dollars over its budget. In the working-class suburb of Bell we saw the height of government entitlement as city officials overcharged residents on their taxes to pay for their own exorbitant salaries and pensions.

Most Californians have enough of their own personal bills and debts without being put on the hook for even more of their state government's poorly managed finances. Government needs to spend within its means instead of shaking down taxpayers and voters through tax increases and bloated bond measures.

By: Senator George Runner

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