Fiscal Accountability

Bring thoughtful, principled approach to budget priorities.

Whether we like it or not, whether we want to think about it or not, and whether our elected officials care about it or not, a state as large as California is going to have big needs, as well as correspondingly big programs to address those needs. As with anything related to fiscal planning, the key is balance. Not just balancing the budget, as required by the state’s constitution, but balancing priorities in the form of the programs and initiatives that are being funded, to ensure that the best interests of the state, on as many levels as possible, are fully addressed in the most strategic and prudent fashion possible.

This state has come a long way from the dark days of 2008, during the deepest depths of the Great Recession, when state revenues dropped so precipitously that the State Controller was forced to issue IOU’s in lieu of payments due to lack of cash on hand. Thankfully those days are over, but one clear lesson remains: when the next recession comes (and, like death and taxes it will surely come, though hopefully not anytime soon), California’s elected leadership must ensure that we are fully prepared with sufficient funds in reserve to manage any contingency. The only way to do that is to live within our means today with an eye on investing for growth while saving for the future.

One of the unintended consequences of the imposition of term limits on California’s legislature is the degree to which an elected official’s short-term interests can diverge or even run counter to the state’s long-term interests and prospects. Make no mistake- elected officials who will likely be long gone by the next recession have a powerful personal incentive to spend every cent of that surplus in ways that support their own political agendas.

There’s a saying that economists frequently employ, that “trees don’t grow to the sky,” the point being that no economic expansion, however robust, can go on indefinitely.  An eventual recession, like death and taxes, is one of the few things we can really count on in life.  If and when the next recession takes root, the choices that Legislature makes—about which programs to continue funding and which will bear cuts—are going to have a huge impact on the lives of millions of Californians, too many of whom are currently struggling just to stay afloat today, even as the economy booms and unemployment rates are at record lows.

Just as importantly, between now and that inevitable recessionary moment, we must insist that the Legislature do the hard work and make necessary reforms during the boom—to California’s tax structure, to addressing perennial pension funding shortfalls, to improving housing affordability and income inequality—so that when the lean times come, the eventual pain is as limited and equitably distributed as possible.

As your state senator, I intend to once again be a thoughtful, principled, and very active participant in the important conversations about fiscal strategy and budget priorities that are essential to the state’s longterm economic prospects, laser-focused on the public good, and unswayed by partisan coercion or political calculation.

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