Sunday, May 15, 2011


Los Angeles may close some Fire Stations

The City of Los Angeles has a structural deficit.  That is, there isn't enough money to pay for all the services that Angelenos expect and desire.  The elected officials have been struggling with the current deficit for months and have finally come to some unpopular decisions.  Some services will have to be curtailed.  Big surprise!

I am wryly amused to see the reactions of many of my liberal Democratic friends.  They are outraged that some fire stations are going to be closed.  They are outraged that some teachers are going to be let go, although it isn't the city but rather the Board of Education that is the target of their wrath.  Their plan is to have big demonstrations in favor of keeping fire houses open, keeping the police staffed, keeping libraries open, keeping hospitals and emergency rooms operating, etc., etc., etc.

It's much too late for demonstrations.  The city doesn't take in enough revenue to pay for all the firehouses, policemen, libraries, hospitals, and tree-trimmers that city dwellers demand.  We Californians voted ourselves into this mess during Jerry Brown's first two terms as Governor.  We deliberately created a revenue deficit for local governments, otherwise known as Proposition 13.  In addition to limiting future increases in property taxes this proposition made it nearly impossible for either the State or the City or the County to raise general revenue taxes.  State taxes could thenceforth be increased only by a 2/3 vote in both Houses of the State Legislature.  Local taxes could be raised only by a 2/3 vote of the public.  An exception was made for "special purpose" taxes, such as an increase in the sales tax to pay for improved public transit.

Fire houses are going to be closed and we Californians are getting what we deserve.  Instead of demonstrating for fire houses we should dress up in "sackcloth and ashes" to express our collective guilt and shame.

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