Monday, March 19 , 2018, 9:26 pm | Fair 55º


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Schwarzenegger Talks Budget Reform with Local Business Leaders

The governor discusses taxes, pensions and education during a meeting hosted by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed reform across the budgetary spectrum during a meeting hosted by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday at the Santa Barbara Airport administration building in Goleta.

Schwarzenegger denounced tax increases through pension reform, proposed a rainy-day fund for the education system, and opposed Proposition 23 and 25.

The governor acknowledged that the budget is nearly two months overdue, but he cited partisan differences that are delaying the process — Democrats want to suspend tax breaks while Republicans insist cuts in spending.

“In a system that lets itself be ripped off, why would we go to the taxpayers and make them pay more money and punish them?” said Schwarzenegger, who is in his last year in office. “No, not over my dead body would I ever sign a budget that increases taxes — first let’s look inside.”

That “look inside” would include repealing Senate Bill 400, a 1999 law modifying employee pensions that the California Public Employees Retirement System said would not cost a “dime of taxpayers money.” Yet, Schwarzenegger said, the law is responsible for an increase of $159 million to $3.9 billion of annual state payments to the pension fund.

“(Taxpayers) are being robbed blind by the pensions of public employees,” he said.

Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce President Kristen Amyx said it was refreshing to hear strong sentiment regarding tax, budget and pension reform.

“It was energizing to hear him speak so strongly about budget reform,” Amyx said. “It re-energized us to think that progress can be made.”

Amyx and Steve Greig, government relations manager for Venoco Inc., moderated the meeting.

Schwarzenegger also said he saw room to improve the education system, citing the new Los Angeles school that cost $548 million to build. He said more money needs to be put into classrooms instead of being spent on administrative costs.

The governor questioned the need for aesthetic improvements and expensive civil servant alternatives — rather than local contractors — when 3,000 teacher layoffs occurred in the Los Angeles education system because of budget constraints.

“Why does a school have to have a better commissary that is better than any restaurant in Los Angeles?” Schwarzenegger said. “Why do we have to take money from schoolchildren and teachers when we have all this money for education?”

The governor proposed a rainy-day fund that would reserve $4 million to $5 million to help stabilize the system and prevent future layoffs and cuts.

Greig said he appreciated the governor’s emphasis on reorganizing priorities when it comes to education.

“It was refreshing to hear him say the two most important things (in education) are the teachers and the students,” Greig said.

Striking an environmental chord, Schwarzenegger later addressed Proposition 23, a November ballot initiative that would suspend AB 32, a limitation on carbon emissions.

AB 32, the nation’s first law to limit emissions in 2006, has the potential to produce a net benefit to the economy, according an analysis conducted by the state. Proposition 23 supporters contend that it could stunt job growth. The governor said he opposed the measure, which is supported by oil, automotive and tire companies that have money at stake.

“It’s the oil companies from Texas that hate our environmental laws,” Schwarzenegger said. “Why? Because they will have to stop polluting.”

On the other side of the budget fight, Democrats say the governor needs to be more frank and take action. Lawmakers can still place measures on the Nov. 2 ballot, but time is running out.

Complicating the issue is Proposition 25, which would lower the vote needed to pass the state budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. The governor declared it was a way facilitate raising taxes.

If the measure is adopted, California would be the first state in the nation to decrease legislative pay for not making the deadline. It also would lessen the power of minority Republicans in the passing of the budget. The tentative deadline for the budget has been pushed back to the end of the month.

Noozhawk intern Alex Kacik is a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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