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Archived: Editorial: Superior Court Judges Set Example, Who Will Be Next?

Let’s hear a loud cheer for our Los Angeles Superior Court judges. The judges early last week volunteered to take pay cuts to help cure a shortfall in their budget.

After hearing all the excuses and complaints from other government officials on why they can’t take pay cuts, the judges’ sacrifice is a breath of fresh air.

The County court system has been hit with a $90 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year and an additional $50 million in the governor’s latest round of proposed budget cuts.

At a time when hundreds of thousands of private sector workers have lost their jobs, the Superior Court judges’ willingness to sacrifice should be an example to other public sector employees that they can help the state regain its financial footing if they too compromise.

There is no question that cuts to salaries and benefits hurt. But by not accepting any cuts it is inevitable that thousands of public employees will lose their jobs entirely, and too many services will be cut to the bare minimum or be completely wiped out.

The full burden of the state’s budget crisis should not be on the backs of workers, the poor, local municipalities or small businesses. Like the judges, those who can afford more, including big corporations, will have to pay more. And that includes other public sector employees.

The Assembly has approved a bill by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, (D-Artesia) that would prohibit local governments from declaring bankruptcy without first getting permission from the state, through the nine-member California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission.

AB 155 is supported by nearly three-dozen labor organizations in the state, including the California Professional Firefighters.

While these groups say it will protect California’s credit rating and ability to borrow money, we believe the real intent is to protect labor contracts and pensions that would be subject to review and changes in bankruptcy court. The bill now heads to the Senate.

We don’t support Mendoza’s bill, because it is an intrusion into local governments’ ability to balance their budgets, already being devastated by the state’s plan to withhold funds in order to balance its own budget and protect state workers.

For weeks now, many public sector employees and their unions have demonstrated an unwillingness to sacrifice any measure of pay or compensation to help stave off the devastating cuts to social welfare and safety net programs being proposed by the governor, or by local municipalities.

Likewise, businesses have decried every tax-raising proposal as another step along a long financial death march.
Healthcare advocates, students, teachers, firefighters, police, court clerks, prison guards, social workers, transportation workers, and on and on, have all protested cuts to the programs, services and jobs they favor. But when asked then where the budget should be cut, few can give a clear answer, preferring instead to just point to the other guy’s program as chock-full of waste.

And of course, they will point to increases in taxes to corporations as the solution.

For the sake of all workers and programs for the state’s neediest residents, everyone should take a step back and ask what they can really do to help their fellow Californians.

Like the judges, what sacrifice are you willing to make?