Despite the worst recession in decades, legislators in Sacramento only weeks ago raised Californians' income, sales and car taxes by $12.9 billion. Then they had the audacity to immediately ask voters to extend the same taxes two more years and another $16 billion when they vote in the statewide special election next month. Why? Because the first increase won't be enough to bail out all the red ink, thanks largely to legislators' own obsessive overspending.
You know it's a serious problem when some state government workers are furloughed without pay to compensate, and even sacred cows like public schools must make do with less than they want in taxpayer money.
Against this background, it was revealed this week that Sacramento's tone-deaf legislative leaders planned to hand 136 of their staff members more than a half-million dollars in pay raises, despite government's sinking fiscal condition, despite California's economic woes and despite taxpayers' ever-growing burden. After a day of adverse media coverage, the raises were rescinded.
In February, Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass explained in her best Orwellian logic, "[W]e all have to tighten our belts and pass a responsible budget that keeps Californians working."
Today 11.2 percent of Californians are unemployed, the highest jobless rate since records have been kept. Had Ms. Bass not changed her mind, there would be 136 Californians who not only would keep working, but at considerably higher remuneration than previously. You would have found them on the office staffs of Ms. Bass and other legislators, Democratic and Republican.
The pay raises for Democratic aides would have averaged 5 percent, while Republican aides would have been 5.5 percent. One salary was to increase to $179,196 a year. Another aide's pay was to be boosted 13 percent.
It's instructive that only after widespread unfavorable media coverage of the raises, did Ms. Bass rescind them. It's more instructive that her reason wasn't because the raises are wrong, but that they were "becoming a distraction."
These lawmakers just don't get it. Judge for yourself by Ms. Bass' own words about the legislative staffers' pay raises: "I'd like to do more." If Californians pass those additional taxes next month, Ms. Bass and friends certainly will do more.