National Opinions

Chico Enterprise- Record: Self-interest rules in Capitol

The governor ordered furloughs for most state employees, but six elected officials said they'll defy the share-the-pain plan.

"Everybody needs to make sacrifices, except me." That prevailing attitude, while never admitted, is the reason California's budget problem continues to grow and why it may never be solved.

We hear that rationale from every quarter -- from state employees, from taxpayers, from politicians: Cut spending ... but not my favorite program. Raise taxes ... but somebody else's. Make sacrifices ... but I've made enough. Stop major building projects throughout the state ... but let us finish ours, because it's very important.

That sentiment has been prevalent for some time. Every once in awhile there's a glimmer of hope that the seriousness of the budget problem is sinking in, such as the announcement Tuesday that the Assembly would cut its operating budget by 10 percent.

But that is almost always countered by somebody else complaining that they cannot possibly tighten the belt any more.

Case in point: On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that most state departments would close on the first and third Fridays each month for the next 18 months. The governor's office estimated the furloughs would save $1.3 billion.

Granted, state employees will suffer financially and people who rely on those services will be inconven- ienced. Most people in the private sector know what that's like. Everybody should share in the pain.

Not all elected officials feel the same way. They don't think they should have to contribute to the solution.

After Schwarzenegger's announcement of the furloughs, it took just one working day for six statewide elected officials to say the furloughs shouldn't apply to their minions. Yep, six Democrats denounced the hardship it would create and said they didn't have to abide by the governor's order. They include Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Attorney General Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Controller John Chiang and schools chief Jack O'Connell.

Because they are elected officials, they can do what they want. They answer to the voters, not the governor, so their nearly 9,000 employ- ees in the six departments don't have to share in the sacrifice other state employees are making.