Claremont Insider: Torres Fiddles, Sacramento Burns

Monday, June 15, 2009

Torres Fiddles, Sacramento Burns

Now that former Pomona mayor Norma Torres (pictured, left) is settled into her job as the representative for the state's 61st Assembly District, she seems to feel comfortable enough to speak to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce last Friday about the state's budget crisis.

Torres strongly opposes any cuts in state services. Her position comes as no surprise, given the fact that most of the money that backed Torres' campaign last year came from organized labor, particularly the Service Employees International Union and government workers' organizations.

According to the Daily Bulletin's coverage last Saturday, Torres believes that rather than the Draconian sort of cuts in state government proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California needs to make structural changes in Sacramento's budget process to ensure the state's long-term viability:

"I began with, 'Why don't you start with the realization that probably none of you are going to be back here next year?' " after the November elections, Lockyer recalls.

"That's a very liberating thought, and with it you can get a lot done."

He acknowledges: "They didn't stand up and applaud."

Speaking to members of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce of Friday morning, Torres, D-Ontario, said elected officials should "address the root of the problem," rather than filling the hole.

"The changes we make for the long term can help our economy," Torres said. "We don't just want to balance the budget, we want to fix the root of the problem."

Torres she and a couple of "freshman" assemblymembers are looking to make these changes.

The goal is to look at the foundation of the state budget so that elected officials do not find themselves in the same predicament years from now, Torres said.

All well and good, but Torres, in the Bulletin piece at least, offered no details on what changes she would propose. She didn't mention tax hikes or borrowing, but those would have to be part of the answer if she isn't going to cut services. Torres had better speak up quickly. This is, after all, now a $24 billion (and rising) problem that must be settled in the next two weeks if California is to avoid running out of cash.

Apparently, Torres doesn't read the Los Angeles Times or attend her Democratic caucus meetings. The Times' George Skelton had a column last week in which he reported on some comments State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Democrat, made to state Democratic legislators at the invitation of Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles). Skelton wrote:
Lockyer reminded the lawmakers that voters are very angry. "They want you to solve the problem. And if you don't solve the problem you're going to get kicked out of office, so you might as well solve the problem."

"Fair or not, people blame you" for 12 years of flowing red ink, Lockyer continued. "You're not going to get reelected. Just put the politics out of your brain."

Lockyer's lecture was confirmed by a caucus attendee, who didn't want to be identified because there's a gag order on such meetings. "He was very forceful."

That might be the best advice ever given to any group of politicians, though like a lot of good advice it will probably be ignored by politicos such as Torres who are more interested in acquiring and maintaining their fiefdoms than they are in actual governance. What meaningful thing could someone like Lockyer, who is a former state attorney general and former state Senate leader, have to tell Torres and the SEIU?

Really, even you or I could do a better job of budget balancing than Torres. If you don't believe it, try for yourself on on the LA Times' budget balancer.