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Informed Opinions on Today’s Topics : Who Gets Sacramento’s Extra Cash?

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

State finance officials said last week that they had found about $676 million in unexpected revenues.

By the looks of California’s foundering aerospace and housing industries, such a surplus in state coffers would seem near-impossible. However, California’s economy has rebounded this year despite those losses and is creating jobs faster than any other state.

So budget estimates of tax revenues this year were surpassed, and that is good news for the state. However, since it is only four months into the fiscal year and with the federal budget crisis still raging, some observers note that it would be foolhardy to assume that this is money in the bank.

Nevertheless, talk about a possible tax cut has already begun.

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What should the state do with the $676-million budget surplus?

Mark Slavkin, president of the Board of Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District:

“My concern is there is talk of cutting taxes. Some have suggested the state has too much money. But California public schools are 40th among the 50 states on what the state pays per child. . . . [School] facilities are in a state of disrepair. Although we have restored salaries, teachers are still not being paid the competitive pay that I would like . . . We ought to increase spending in schools and basic services and not tempt voters with rhetoric of state tax cuts.”

Blenda J. Wilson, president, Cal State Northridge:

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“I think the unexpected state surplus should be used, in part, to ensure that student fees at our colleges and universities would not be increased next year. This surplus would provide an opportunity for [the governor] to reassure our citizens that California will remain the premier state in the nation for providing low-cost, high-quality public higher education.”

Judith Babka, manager, San Fernando Library:

“I think rather than transferring that money to the schools, it should come to the libraries again. . . . I need funds to get materials this year. I have only $5,000 to buy everything when we usually have $55,000 a year.”

Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar):

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“It is wrong to call it a surplus. The state is merely taking in more money than it anticipated, but we’re still taking a debt from last year. . . . The first thing we have to do is get our fiscal house in order and stop rolling over debt from one year to another. If there is money left over, then that money ought to go into K though 12 education. . . . Everyone is reacting as if there is this huge surplus of money, as if the state is rolling in money. And what we’re seeing is election fever taking over.”

Ernie Dynda, president of the Valley-based United Organization of Taxpayers:

“The state has taken [millions of dollars] away from local government to balance the state budget . . . forcing many cities to go to utility taxes and assessments. Before they spend that money, they need to give some of that money back to local government. . . . It’s just a shift of money we are seeing. . . . Tax cuts are fine. We’re all for tax cuts. But we don’t want a tax cut at the state level and have heavier fees at the local level.”


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