Instead of having meaningful debate about our spending priorities in Sacramento, legislative Democrats are again focusing their attention on increasing taxes.
Last year, the governor and the majority party made their spending priorities clear when they relied on midyear "trigger" cuts to education to balance the budget. These cuts were made despite the fact that tax revenue actually grew by $8.4 billion last year, and experts expect it to grow by an additional $4.5 billion in the year ahead.
The governor and his party are taking a similar path this year. However, this year's trigger cuts will take effect only if voters reject the $9 billion tax hike the governor hopes to have on the ballot in November. And 97 percent of those potential cuts will impact education, even though education accounts for about 50 percent of the state budget.
It is a lose-lose situation for education. If the taxes go through, there will be no net benefit to our schools. If the taxes fail, our schools, colleges and universities will suffer additional trigger cuts. K-12 education and community colleges face $4.8 billion in additional trigger cuts, which would reduce programmatic funding by $3 billion over last year's budget.
I do not have to tell you what a cut like this would mean for education. As a former member of the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees, I am keenly aware of the importance of higher education. Making cuts at this level, especially at our career- and tech-oriented community colleges, is short-sighted and would harm the state's workforce.
There is another way. My Republican colleagues and I know and believe that it is possible to craft a budget that will protect priorities like education - all without raising taxes.
Recently, Assembly and Senate Republicans released a plan that identifies $4.4 billion in alternative budget solutions that would prevent any more devastating trigger cuts to education, putting our students first.
These savings come through streamlining government programs and implementing proposals from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office that have been used in past budgets and succeeded in keeping our state in good fiscal shape.
Our roadmap also dedicates any new revenue collected as a result of our improving economy exclusively to our K-12 schools and higher education system. It means that one-time tax windfalls - like the one expected when Facebook goes public on the stock market - will not be used for any other purpose than to ensure our kids are receiving the education they need and deserve.
By using the money to fund higher education, we can prevent cuts that threaten the prestige of our colleges and universities. This will minimize wait lists for classes and eliminate the need for student fee increases.
Furthermore, to free up additional funding for our most important budget priorities, the Legislature needs to enact structural reforms that set our state up for future fiscal prosperity. Those changes include adopting comprehensive pension reforms and working on instituting a spending cap.
One of the key priorities of government is ensuring that our children are educated and prepared for careers as adults. Our economy hinges on their future success.
Republicans have made it clear that education must always be a top priority for state spending. It is time for the governor and Democrats to make that same commitment to California's students and their families.
For more information on the state budget and to provide your feedback on California's spending priorities, I encourage you to visit www.CABudgetFactCheck.com.