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Placer County’s state lawmakers face budget strife, bullet train questions

First session of new year starts with $13 billion budget deficit still a concern
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Lawmakers are back in Sacramento after a four-month break facing a $13 billion budget shortfall and questions on pension reform, high-speed rail and how to bridge the increasingly partisan gulf between Republicans and Democrats at the Capitol. Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Roseville, is six months into her term as 4th District representative and preparing to further the fight against high-speed rail while taking steps to introduce her own legislation. State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, prepares for a battle in the Senate similar to his wife’s over the bullet train while trying to convince the Democrat majority to find some savings rather than shifting deficit costs onto taxpayers. “The governor has made some realistic adjustments in his just-released budget numbers to make sure we’re living within our means but I’m not supporting any additional burdens for taxpayers and businesses,” Ted Gaines said. Ted Gaines said he’ll be backing reforms to bring about budget efficiencies to help balance spending with revenues. Both Gaineses are also aboard a drive by Republican Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, to put the question of funding the Southern California bullet train back on the ballot. “I’m a co-author to kill high-speed rail,” Beth Gaines said. “I’m in favor of voters voicing their opinions again at a time when we’re concerned about getting kids to school on school buses.” Ted Gaines said money for rail travel would be better spent increasing speeds with new technology on the Sacramento-San Francisco and Los Angeles-San Diego corridors. He said private funding would step up to pay for it and take the risks for any losses, if there is a good rate of return. Ted and Beth Gaines both described the bullet train issue as a “boondoggle.” “They’ve already burned through $100 million in taxpayer money,” Gaines said. Beth Gaines said she’ll be working toward submitting bills by the Feb. 24 deadline that include an attempt to drop the gas tax by applying sales tax to the base amount before state and federal taxes are imposed. “It’s double taxation right now,” Gaines said. Watching from Auburn, former Placer County Republican Central Committee president Tom Jones said Thursday that one of his chief concerns is “chronic overspending” in state government and a disconnect between many politicians and current economic conditions. “Like everybody else in California, I’m wondering what planet these guys are on when I read the bills they introduce,” Jones said. Jones said the state has a pension plan it can’t afford and needs to be dealt with quickly. “We have to gulp hard and have pension reform and look at the bonds like the one for the bullet train that voters were misled on,” Jones said. Gov. Jerry Brown and his fellow Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, already have said that they do not plan to engage with Republicans in budget discussions after last year’s failure to reach a compromise. Instead, they’ll go to the ballot and ask voters to increase taxes on the wealthy and boost the state sales tax. Beth Gaines said that she still feels she can work with Democrats on bills she hopes to pass and other issues. “I’m looking forward to finding common ground and trying to help them see the impact of their decisions on my district,” Beth Gaines said.