Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Taking a Hard Look at Fixing the Budget

My friend, Charlie, said that he does not think we should give the government more money to solve the budget crisis. He sees raising taxes or throwing money at the problem is the easy solution. I was in an intense discussion with him about what California’s leadership was doing, pointing out that the politicians did not want to raise taxes on those who could best afford it, but instead they “taxed” those who could least afford it by cutting back on the safety net of children, the elderly, the poor, the disabled.

Taxing those vulnerable and who are least able to resist is also “the easy solution.” These individuals are less likely to make the difference in an election and certainly in no position to gather signatures or congregate in protest because they are working too hard to live day to day.

The harder solution would be to look realistically at how much we are being taxed. What is the corporations, businesses and citizens contribution to our tax base? Is it fair, reasonable and equitable? After all, don’t they benefit from the services provided by the state and local government? Is it really out of proportion to the rest of the country? Are we really over taxed for what we get?

What about the waste within our government? I recently wrote about the cost of L.A. County to audit Hillsides’ contract estimated at $200,000 to $250,000 to recoup $37,000 (which we believe is in error). Is there a better, more efficient way to audit? I think so.

How about the number of audits we get from different departments (many times a duplication of what another entity has done), by the state and local governments? We have approximately two audits a month. What about the amount of time and staff it takes to submit an invoice to Los Angeles County?

A business would never stand for this. If I can identify waste in my little corner of business with the County, multiply it by the thousands who do business with the state and local governments. Let’s start at the State and then move to local entities. Do we need all the commissions that we have? Do the legislators need all the staff they have? Are there procedures that could be streamlined or eliminated? I am sure that, taking an honest look, we could preserve the level of services for those vulnerable and still cut costs.

An example of this is our local school district’s new Superintendent reorganized the infrastructure of the district and saved millions of dollars. We should do the same thing across the State and Counties.

But no, the sad thing is our government would rather raise taxes or cut services to those who need them without ever looking at the real culprit.