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Saving California

Saving California

Posted: Monday, March 19, 2012 7:00 pm

In less than 50 years they ruined my home state.
They over-taxed it, over-regulated it and bankrupted it. They strangled its vibrant economy, destroyed its education system and let its infrastructure crumble.
Who are these people who’ve turned the Golden State into Greece?
Not Big Business. Not the rich. Not the poor. Not millions of immigrants from Des Moines or Juarez.
“They” are the career politicians in Sacramento. Their excessive lawmaking, taxing and spending have transformed California into a European welfare state with a grim future.
It’s hard for me to believe how things have deteriorated in California since the late 1960s. I can remember when Ronald Reagan was governor. We had a surplus. He actually gave money back to the people of Cal ifornia.
The state once was famous for having the best education system, the best business climate, the best roads and infrastructure in America. It was a growing, dynamic paradise where people came to pursue their dreams and hopes.
Now California’s a wreck that people and businesses are leaving in droves. And Gov. Brown and his gang are offering us more of the same this fall — higher income and sales taxes and a bullet train no one wants but them.
To reverse its death spiral, California needs to return to a part-time legislature and turn its career politicians into part-time citizen politicians — which is what they are in 41 other states and what they were in California until 1967.
Today the state’s 120 legislators work year-round and their $95,000 salaries are sweetened by as much as $50,000 in tax-free per diem allowances. They are the highest-paid lawmakers in the country.
Compare California to Texas and Florida. In Texas they pay legislators $600 a month and the legislature meets 140 days a year. In Florida lawmakers get $30,000 a year and meet just 60 days.
The politicians in Texas and Florida do not make politics their careers. They have to have real jobs in the real world. When they’re not in Austin or Tallahassee, they must live and do business under the same laws they have written.
Part-time legislators are what the founding fathers wanted lawmakers to be. My father Ronald Reagan was a citizen politician. Politics was not a career for him. It was a service. He gave of himself.
People have repeatedly asked me to run for the U.S. Senate against Dianne Feinstein. But I think that a new job I have — chairing the “Citizen Legislature Act” — is better for me and the state.
California citizens are in the streets collecting signatures now to put the initiative on the fall ballot. The act would return the state to a part-time legislature. Lawmaking sessions would be cut from 230 days to 90 days. And legislators would be forced to produce on-time, balanced budgets or not get paid. What a concept.
The act also would end politics as a full-time career in California. Legislators would be paid $1,500 a month. At $18,000 a year, they’d have to find real jobs and see what it’s like to live under the dumb and/or bad laws they write by the thousands in Sacramento.
The “Citizen Legislature Act,” which I will work hard to see become law, would shock the systems of the politicians. They’d have to start serving the people of California, not themselves. And I bet they wouldn’t be passing any new bullet train legislation.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press, 2011). com.

Published in The Messenger 3.19.12

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