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Ron Kaye: It'll be hell to pay when the bills come due

March 24, 2012

I don't know about you, but I've been through a lot in my life and I've never seen anything like this — and it isn't at all like seeing an elephant fly.

Our elected officials must think we are all “Dumbos” and will somehow go along with higher taxes, even though the basic problem is not being fixed: government costs too much and delivers too little.

Personally, I would be happy to pay more in taxes, but I have to ask the same questions of Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature that I would ask a friend who got into financial trouble during this dark and dreary recession because he was living beyond his means for a long time.

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Is your house in order? If I give you money, will it get you back into a sound financial footing, or are you just hoping to buy a little time — and some lottery tickets — to straighten things out?

For four years now, we have seen that the state, the city of Los Angeles and many others cities and counties have cooked the books, juggled funds, borrowed heavily, deferred costs and taken minimal steps to be able to fool voters, and themselves, into believing the lie that their budgets are balanced.

Even cities like Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena — which are more affluent and far better managed than most — face reducing services to the public, and raising rates and fees wherever they can, to stave off the toughest decisions in hopes the economic recovery will save them from dealing with the reality of a “new normal” of slow, or even no, growth.

If there is a “new normal” evolving, as many economists believe, than how in the world are we going to pay the salaries of our public employees and the mammoth pensions and benefits guaranteed by the state constitution to current and future retirees?

Only tepid reforms that buy time have been put in place — less costly benefits to new employees if there are any, increased contributions for existing workers — leaving a massive wall of hundreds of billions of dollars in what are called “unfunded liabilities,” when they mean future costs us “Dumbos” are liable for.

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