- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — As they take on the state’s lopsided ledger, the candidates seeking to replace Gov. Gray Davis have proposed little in their economic plans that hasn’t been pitched before by either Mr. Davis or others in the Capitol.

Instead, the bulk of their proposals consist of previously rejected plans, continuations of fixes already in the current budget and new taxes or spending cuts with little chance of passing the Legislature.

Those who have spent their careers analyzing the state’s budget say there is no bin of fresh ideas — only old plans dusted off.

Tax Amnesty? Been there. Tobacco tax boost? Done that.

“Everybody’s looked under all the logical rocks and hasn’t found anything,” said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a nonprofit that analyzes policies affecting low- and middle-income Californians.

“There is no silver bullet. The bottom line is you either raise taxes or you cut spending.”

Budget planners and analysts have binders full of simple solutions, failed fixes and moldy measures that didn’t make it through the Legislature. Those who keep track say the proposals launched by recall candidates last week all have a place in those notebooks.

The most detailed plan so far came from a veteran of the budget process, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a former Assembly speaker seeking the security vote to keep a Democrat in office. He is asking voters to reject the recall on the first part of the ballot, but to vote for him on the second part.

Despite his estranged relationship with the governor, his budget plan has many shades of Gray Davis.

Among the recycled ideas: a tobacco tax increase, a fraud crackdown on the state health insurance for the poor and higher taxes on the rich.

Other savings suggestions such as limiting corporations’ ability to claim small-business tax status and encouraging compliance among people who abuse tax shelters are all borrowed from proposed legislation.

Any tax increases would face a tough fight in the Legislature.



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