As we began this year with a staggering deficit, a newly passed majority-vote budget law, and a new governor, I tried to find some glimmer of hope that we could get out of this mess while making California better.
When the budget proposal was presented, it was clear that there was plenty of pain to go around. The proposal relied more on taxes than on cuts. However, the governor seemed open to discussion. It would have been irresponsible of me to have ignored the opportunity to work with this new governor and explore just what opportunities were available to us to reform and restore California.
While I believe the voters have a right to choose, we in Sacramento must work our hardest to assure there are actually choices on the ballot. Simply placing a tax extension on the ballot is not the solution to getting us out of this mess. We must have reforms, otherwise the government will be back again with its hand out for more when those tax extensions expire.
I do not believe taxes are ever the answer, and I will not vote for a tax increase. I was clear that any ballot with a tax extension must also give the voters a choice to vote on reforms that would shape California for generations to come.
A spending cap that requires Sacramento to pay off its credit cards, build a healthy savings account and spend no more than it brings in, is no different than what every hard-working California family has to grapple with every month. It would lead to the end of the boom-and-bust cycle of spending.
Fixing a burdensome and overly generous pension system at risk of collapsing under its own weight is not only necessary, but it’s also the fair thing to do.
Preventing the out-of-control frivolous lawsuits that have driven businesses out of the state and Californians out of work is not an unreasonable request, and one that must be met if we are to get our economy and our people working again.
I understand there are many interest groups who oppose such reforms, just as there are many who oppose the mere mention of placing a tax extension on the ballot. One thing is clear — they will all find something to hate in any solution that’s actually going to work.
Unfortunately, those voices have prevailed in these discussions, and it has been made clear that reforms will not be tolerated.
Republicans have been unfairly characterized as the “party of no.” Those of my colleagues who believe as I do were open to discussion about how to fix this mess. We did not simply say no. Neither were we willing to simply say yes without real reforms or solutions for moving California forward.
Much has been made of the “GOP 5” and our willingness to meet with the governor regarding the budget. I remain surprised at the attention paid to us for simply doing our jobs.
I believe that I was sent to Sacramento not to sit back and say no, but to work with all of my colleagues toward the solutions we so desperately need. I remain committed to doing just that.
One thing is certain: My door has been, and will remain, open to anyone willing to discuss the solutions that are so necessary to get Californians working again.
• Assemblyman Bill Berryhill represents the 26th District, which includes portions of Stockton and Modesto, Manteca, Patterson and vast swaths of rural San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.