Larry Elder
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In search of the ever-elusive free lunch, California government increased spending in the last four-and-a-half years by nearly 40 percent, well above the 21 percent combined increase in state population growth and inflation. Governor Gray Davis, who entered office in 1998 with a $10 billion surplus, just signed a budget designed to reduce a nearly $40 billion deficit. That's right, $40 billion, a deficit larger than the combined deficits of the other 49 states!

More than 1.6 million voters signed petitions forcing, for the first time in the state's history, a governor recall election. Critics cry foul, because the governor "committed no crime." But the California constitution allows a recall election for any reason deemed sufficient by voters who sign petitions. This includes incompetence and failed leadership. Consider:

-- In the governor's first four years in office, spending increased 36 percent, far higher than the 5 percent annual increase in the state's population and inflation.

-- As a quid pro quo for campaign contributions from state employees, California employees such as fire fighters and police officers can now retire as early as age 50, with 90 percent of their salary -- among the most generous pensions anywhere.

-- Although, by law, tax hikes require two-thirds legislative majority, the governor, by fiat, tripled the state's car tax.

-- The governor signed a bill to require employers to grant paid family and medical leave.

-- Most California businesses saw their workers' compensation premiums double and even triple, while increasing payouts, despite the fact that the number of claims filed actually decreased.

-- The state already imposes up to 9.3 percent state income tax, among the country's highest.

-- California's sales tax is 7.25 percent -- the nation's highest -- with some counties adding on even more.

-- During California's so-called energy crisis, the governor dragged taxpayers into the power business. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, " … (E)xperts estimate that California paid about $40 billion too much for power in 2000 and 2001 as energy firms jacked up prices. Adding in the $10 billion of overcharges from the long-term contracts would bring the state's tab for the energy crisis to $50 billion."

-- Despite the governor's declared "freeze" in hiring, he added 44,000 people to the state payroll.

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Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.