We Get The Picture: The Message From Voters Is Clear: Fix It Once And For All

May 20, 2009
Contact: Rodney Foo @ (408) 282-8920

Following the resounding defeat of key budget propositions, Assemblymember Jim Beall Jr. suggested new approaches to trim the $21 billion deficit and provide relief for school districts.

“The voters told us on Tuesday they want us to go back to the drawing board,’’ Beall, D-San Jose, said. “The short-term thinking that pervades the State Capitol has run its course. We have to develop a different and pragmatic, long-term approach toward our state’s fiscal policies.

“We’ve got to reduce spending on our highest cost-drivers, prisons and health care,’’ said Beall, who chairs the Assembly Human Services Committee and the Select Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

“The prison budget has doubled in the past decade to $10 billion. The state has 173,000 inmates which is roughly equivalent to locking up everyone in the city of Ontario or El Dorado County. Yet, California has a 70 percent recidivism rate. We aren’t producing the results for the money we spend.

“For over half of the prisoners, drugs or alcohol played some role in their crimes. A 2006 UCLA study said 42 percent of our inmates needed alcohol treatment and 56 percent needed drug treatment. It’s clear: The state should emphasize alcohol and drug treatment programs and prevention education. By spending a little upfront, we can save billions more in the long run.’’

Beall, who voluntarily cut his salary and per diem last year, said savings must be sought throughout state government. The Assembly has cut its own budget by $41 million during the past two-and-half years and by ordering each member’s office to trim spending by 10 percent.

Over the years, Beall has worked to rein in health care costs by increasing medical coverage by jump starting Santa Clara County’s Children’s Health Initiative, a trailblazing program to provide affordable health coverage for the county’s estimated 71,000 uninsured children, and last year passed legislation that offers a way for small businesses to provide coverage for low-wage workers. During this session, he has introduced a bill to extend coverage to the dependents of low-wage workers.

With public schools facing a massive shortfall, Beall said the state must allow more flexibility at the local level, giving school districts a greater share for the responsibility and direction of their fiscal destinies.

“We can’t let schools be held captive by Sacramento,’’ Beall said. “Communities should have a larger say in the futures of their schools.’’