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The numbers don’t lie. California is facing a $24 billion budget deficit that is getting worse by the day.

Legislators here in Sacramento have argued for months about the right way and the wrong way to solve the state’s cash crisis. But voters sent a clear message May 19 ย– they don’t want higher taxes to solve the budget problems created by overspending politicians.

With the voters taking taxes off the table, Sacramento must be willing to look at other options to solve our budget problems. This means making the tough but necessary budget decisions to avert bankruptcy, eliminate the deficit and ensure this never happens again.

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There are no easy budget solutions this year, and everyone ย– including the Legislature ย– must be prepared to sacrifice to address the deficit and get California back on track.

Instead of threatening to release early thousands of criminals onto our streets and eliminating much-needed programs for Californians already suffering, we need to cut every ounce of fat from state government ย– beginning with the aptly named Integrated Waste Management Board.

With the support of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, I have re-introduced my bill calling for the elimination of this board, which oversees an agency that helps to manage California’s garbage.

While the agency does important work to help keep our state clean, it is beyond me and many others as to why we need to be paying political insiders and former legislators ย– many of whom have no direct experience with waste issues ย– more than $130,000 a year in taxpayer money to serve on this board.  Even more galling is that these members only meet a few times a month doing little work that can be done by others.  It seems the real purpose of the board is to serve as a soft-land spot for termed-out politicians.

That is why eliminating the waste board is essential to consolidating duplicative services that run rampant through our government.

By consolidating these services, we can immediately save taxpayers millions of dollars. My legislation will transfer the duties of the board to the Department of Conservation, which will help to make our recycling efforts more efficient and cost-effective.

The Legislature needs to set an example by voting to eliminate the board, which they have failed to do earlier this year when an Assembly committee defeated my original bill by a party-line vote.

And after cutting the board, the Legislature must continue to cut wasteful spending in other areas of government and tighten its own belt, instead of forcing Californians who are already struggling to make ends meet to pay for the spending mistakes of politicians past and present.

If the state trims the fat and implements vital spending reforms, we don’t need to put our communities in danger. We don’t need to eliminate entire programs that many Californians depend on. And we certainly don’t need to impose higher taxes and more fees on families living on the edge.

California not only needs, but deserves a better government that works for the 21st century.
By ensuring our tax dollars are spent as wisely as possible and implementing needed budget reforms, we can finally help our state live within its means.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, represents the 4th Assembly District in the California Legislature.

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