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Capitol Gains Sidebar: Across the Aisle


By Brad A. Greenberg '04

Published Jul 1, 2009 11:00 AM

The deep divide between Republicans and Democrats in Sacramento doesn't disappear just because the politicians on either side of the debate are UCLA alumni. For Bruin GOP leaders, the discord invariably centers on how to spend a finite amount of money.

"I don't think those two philosophies will ever merge, and it is healthy to have the two in a tug of war," says Sen. Sam Aanestad '69, D.D.S. '73 (R-Grass Valley). "What is unhealthy is to have the system keep getting further into debt, which then has to be paid by the taxpayers — the people who are working and their children, and now with the latest round of tax increases and the bonds we have, their grandchildren. That is not right."

While both sides have disparate plans for health care and education reform, for environmental clean-up and business regulations, right now most politicians and observers agree that the No. 1 concern for Californians is stimulating the state economy and solving its seemingly incessant fiscal crisis. What they don't agree on is how to proceed: Tax cuts, tax increases or more government spending?

For Aanestad's fellow Bruin state senator, Mimi Walters '84 (R-Laguna Niguel), the answer is simple and traditional: Cut taxes.

"The only way we can stimulate the economy is through the private sector and giving people tax cuts and putting more money in their pocket," Walters says. "The budget crisis has a big impact on the long-term health of the state. We have a spending problem in the state of California, not a revenue problem. And we have to institute some sort of spending cap that will stop out-of-control spending."

Proposition 1A, voted on in the May 19 special election, would have instituted such a cap. The measure, though, was criticized from the left as being detrimental to students, the elderly and the poor, and from the right as extending temporary tax increases. Ultimately, Proposition 1A failed, as did most of the other ballot measures as a result, the state's budget deficit is projected to widen. But even if they had passed, California would still be $8 billion or so in the red this year.

In any case, sometime during the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the Legislature will again need to draw down spending, raise taxes or borrow money — or some combination of the three — to close a shortfall that as of May had risen to $15.4 billion. And that will balloon to $21.3 billion since nearly all the measures have failed.

"We have businesses that are laying people off, houses that are going into foreclosure, and yet the state has not reduced its spending. We continue borrowing," Aanestad says. "Somewhere along the line you would think the majority party would say, 'Hey, we are spending more than we are bringing in. We have to cut some of these programs.' But so far there has been no will to do that."



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