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It's A Gray Area: Honest appraisals in our times of need

January 22, 2011|By James P. Gray

Recently I heard KFI AM's Bill Handel say that Southern California Edison is attempting to increase its rates by 7% so that, among other things, it can cover the economic losses sustained by the pension plans of its retirees. Now wait a minute! Almost everybody's retirement plans took big economic hits during this recession, so why would we be required to reach into our pockets to pay for the losses sustained by the SCE workers? Simply stated, this is wrong, and things like this need to be addressed.

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed state budget is addressing some of these things. Of course it also includes prolonging $9 billion in expiring annual income, sales and vehicle taxes, which is a problem, but it also seriously would reduce spending for some of his political party's favored projects. He deserves credit for that. And it also responsibly proposes a shift of the $1.7 billion annual funding of municipal redevelopment agencies from the state to local governments, which would be great for the state, but tough on the locals. (I say "responsibly," because the more local funding and control of these programs, if we must have them, the better.) Of course, now the city governments are disposing of these monies as fast as they can, so that the state can't get them back.

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Further to his credit, the new governor is also urging basic structural changes to the state's prison system, which include having non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenders, who do not have any previous convictions for such offenses, stay under the guidance of the county courts instead of being sent to state prison. Without question some people belong in prison, but we also must understand that when that happens we will be putting them into a callous and hardened world from which many of them will not return. So it is frequently better to deal with drug addictions and other non-violent anti-social behavior with treatment and responsibility programs while on strict county probation than sending people to the state "correctional" facilities. This will not only save lots of money for the taxpayers, it will also help to address the defendants' underlying problems.

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