According to the state budget of 2002/2003 fiscal year, California is facing a staggering $23.6 billion deficit.. The causes of this financial frenzy are endless - general fund spending has increased by 37% while population growth has risen by only 5% in the last three years, projections on capital gains tax revenue fell short, commitments to long-term contracts on energy prices, excessive pork barrel spending, and choosing risky long-term projects at the expense of immediate needs of our State (i.e. road repairs, public safety, clean water, housing). This flood of poor fiscal management must come to an end.
Unfortunately, the response from our state leaders to do anything about our budget crisis has been unconstructive. Governor Gray Davis has been quick to point to excuses, highlighted by an insulting innuendo that the attacks of September 11 caused this multibillion-dollar shortfall of revenue. This unwillingness to assume accountability is not becoming of a California governor. However, equally disturbing was the opportunistic responses in the State Legislature to point blame to Governor Davis. Rather than consume media time with opportunistic attacks on a substandard governor, members of the State Senate and State Assembly should redirect their energies on a viable economic plan.
There is no greater example of partisan politics than budgetary issues. When state legislators convene for discussion on appropriations, it turns into commotion that especially hurts the most important group at hand - California residents. Often times, politicians spend so much time bickering over the merits of program spending and tax revenue estimates that they forget for whom these initiatives are going to benefit. People must be the focus, not fancy numbers.
While it is true that budgetary shortfalls and economic recessions can be improved with a stronger fiscal policy, we must not overlook the most critical element to sustaining our quality of life. California must make a stronger investment and commitment to California. We must elevate consumer confidence to higher plateaus in order to truly provide a better California for future generations.
The Golden State produces over $1.3 trillion in goods and services each year. We have the fifth largest economy in the entire world. Our exports supported over 1.5 million jobs in 2000, and have become the largest exporting state in the United States of America.
California is a beacon of hope for its residents and visitors alike. We must shoulder the responsibility of leading our state into a new era of economic prosperity.
Tourism is one of the hottest revenue sources for local and state governments. California, boasting natural sites of ocean and farmland to the great landmarks of Hollywood to our pleasant societal pace, is the hub of domestic and international travel. We must expand the marketing strategies that promote our great state by highlighting new levels of fulfillment among tourists. Our local manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and residents will all benefit from the outside capital pumped into our economy.
Technology has provided us with the most spectacular growth in recent memory. While the DotCom Revolution was unable to sustain the inflated expectations, we are left with a solid foundation of new technological prospects. Broadband access, wireless communication, data storage, speech technology, electronic filing and many other areas have created new opportunities for investors, consumers, and job seekers. Government can help spur further growth in this industry by working intimately with technology leaders.
Entertainment has been the backbone of our state during the modern era. Unfortunately, we have placed too much stock in the notion of "location, location, location." Movie and television producers are outsourcing to cheaper overhead by moving their sets to Canada as we watch unemployment rise in the entertainment industry. We must lure these companies and others back to our great state with stronger incentives and economic opportunity, free from excessive government regulation.
Just by looking at the prospects to grow tourism, technology and entertainment, we realize that the future of a stronger California lies not in short-term budgetary figures. We have exhausted taxpayer time and resources by bickering over the past. Government and its policymakers are predictably far from perfection, so we must focus less on excuses and finger pointing.
Certainly, our budgetary goals should be aimed at ensuring that revenue matches or outpaces expenditures. But we can do far greater good by expanding our revenue streams with new forms of investment and growth in our state's most viable industries. These efforts will help stimulate productivity, increase jobs, develop better synergies among business, raise consumer confidence, and ultimately ease the burden of the everyday taxpayer.
We can fund the programs worth funding, and we can keep taxes minimal. But we must have the courage and determination to give California an economic boost from which we can all benefit. Our prosperity is waiting if we prepare for the future.