Bill Leonard - Contributor
Bill Leonard is a Member of the State Board of Equalization
Week Under the Dome
Colleges, Prop 57, Coupal, Gipper's day...
[Bill Leonard] 2/2/04
Last week’s news reported that the
Cal State University system is throwing out fewer students for
being behind in basic math and English skills. That is hardly
something to celebrate. All students who graduate from California
high schools should be able to pass such proficiency exams, but
only 42% of incoming freshmen can. As a result, the CSU system
is spending millions offering remedial coursework to get these
students up to speed. What none of the news stories noted was
how much money that is costing the state. The Legislative Analyst’s
Office estimates that we could save millions annually by offering
those basic math and English courses at the community college
or high school level, rather than continuing such basic instruction
at the University level. As we try to close a multi-billion
dollar gap this year, budget writers should look for every
Thinking on 57
have received several questions about Prop. 57, the measure
on the March 2nd ballot asking Californians to
approve $15 billion in bonds to help keep the state solvent.
Most people who are questioning the measure wonder why they
should continue to give money to a state that cannot stop spending
It has been likened to giving a new credit card to a shopoholic.
While that is an intriguing analogy, it is false. It is the
equivalent of financing the shopoholic’s (or in this case, the Legislature ’s)
previous buying binges, but it does not bring in new revenue
to spend any new money on any new programs. While that may still
be distasteful to some, I caution that the alternatives are worse.
Without this money, the state would still have to borrow the
money from somewhere and the costs go up dramatically if we do
it through another mechanism, perhaps to the tune of $30 billion
before 2005. Prop. 57 allows the state to consolidate its existing
debt and pay it off at reasonable interest rates. I encourage
voters to support this effort to bring some stability to our
state budget so that Governor Schwarzenegger can begin working
with the Legislature to curb their spending habits.
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, had an
outstanding article in the Orange
County Register last week. Coupal recommends that voters evaluate
candidates for the legislature based on their understanding
of how wealth is created. He writes, “A majority of our current
lawmakers seem to believe that the source of wealth is rich people.
Their approach to governing is a lot like Willie Sutton’ s
approach to robbing banks. Sutton said he robbed banks because ‘that’s
where the money is.’ To these politicians, all taxes are
justifiable, and those that fall on the rich are not only the
most lucrative, they are the most justifiable.” The problem
with this thinking is, as Coupal points out, that rich people
do not just have money inherently. It is created through productivity.
Productivity drives the economy, but without such productivity
and economy, “the tax base stagnates and dies.” Thus,
it is imperative that our elected officials understand that government
spending and taxpayers’ productivity are directly linked.
Coupal concludes, “So, if a candidate asks for your support,
ask if she or he understands how wealth is created. If in response
you get a deer-in-the- headlight look, vote for someone else.” Good
Schwarzenegger has proclaimed February 6th as Ronald Reagan
Day in California to celebrate the former
President’s 93rd birthday. In recognizing Reagan, our Governor
does us a great service. His proclamation reminds us of Reagan’s
moral conviction, belief in entrepreneurial America, and his
commitment to “peace through strength.” These are
principles that should animate all of us to this day and give
us hope in a better California, better America and better world.