Local politicians weigh in on governor's proposals

January 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The effort to head off the state's $20 billion budget shortfall is underway and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is aiming to make deep cuts in state programs.

Some of the Bay Area's top politicos weighed in on the governor's proposals.

The governor is looking for ways to bridge a $20 billion deficit. On Friday, he proposed several ideas, and now they are facing a lot of criticism. One idea involves asking the federal government for more help.

Leading Democrats like Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi say the feds cannot keep bailing everybody out.

"The challenges in California have to be addressed in California, and we stand ready to help, but we can't write a blank check to cover what hasn't happened here to keep the fiscal house in order," Pelosi said.

Schwarzenegger is also calling for a 5 percent pay cut for state workers, but Willie Brown, former state assembly speaker and mayor of San Francisco, disagrees. He says there needs to be a major overhaul of state workers' salaries.

Brown insists many have bloated salaries and benefits that even surpass the earnings of those in the private sector. He says labor agreements went unscrutinized for way too long, even while he was in office.

"Not enough revenue can be raised to sustain a system that has never been examined from its effectiveness and from its cost," Brown said.

"Willie Brown doesn't know what he's talking about," said state Democratic Party Chair John Burton. "City employees make as much money, if not more, than state employees."

Burton adamantly defends state workers and the need to keep their salaries untouched.

But professor emeritus of economics at the University of San Francisco, Mike Lehmann, insists what the state needs to do right now is raise taxes.

"If the problem has been generated by a weak economy that has reduced revenues, well that doesn't make the salaries too high. The problem is the revenues have fallen off," he said.

Of course this is not a done deal. The Legislature will now deliberate and vote on the budget which needs to be in place by July 1.