'Save Our Schools' shell game

California has the second highest state income tax rate and is near or at the top nationally in property taxes, local sales taxes and business tax rates. So, we should be in great shape financially, right?

Unfortunately, our public schools have ranked in the bottom fifth nationally for the past 20 years, our infrastructure is crumbling throughout the state and state public employee pensions are hundreds of billions of dollars underfunded. This year Gov. Brown and his Democratic-led majority passed a budget they called balanced but they apparently didn't do very well in math as in fact, it is six billion dollars short of being balanced.

So, the simple question is, where is all our money?

The governor and his Democratic-led Legislature are like having a spouse that keeps losing money on trips to Vegas and comes home barking "we need more money to pay the electric bill."

Right now they are holding a six-billion-dollar gun to the head of school-age and college-age parents threatening, we assume, that our schools will continue to be bottom fifth.

At the same time, Gov. Brown and Darrell Steinberg hammered through the approval of the Governor's legacy project, the $68 billion bullet train through the Central Valley. The Governor is also proposing to dig a $16 billion dollar tunnel to save a Delta minnow. He confidently positions both ideas as being bold.

If passed, at least half of the Prop 30 revenue would go to other state programs like the governor's train set, the fish tunnel, overpriced pensions and drug rehab and parolee programs. Yes, read the second half of Prop 30 that Secretary of State Debra Bowen published in the California General Election voter guide where it outlines how funds can be used for these programs as well, (page 15 right column and page 16 left column). It also clearly states the revenue can be redirected at any time at the discretion of the governor and Legislature.

It is no surprise that Gov. Brown does not mention this in his deceptive shiny red apple Prop 30 ads, nor does State Controller John Chiang. Mr. Chiang, the state's accountant-in-chief, didn't know the state parks commission was hiding 50-plus million dollars from the state as it was closing parks.

So the other simple question is, why should Californians give Gov. Brown more money?

Californians see the problem clearly in 2012, and it is not school funding -- it is Gov. Brown and his Legislature. Voting "no" on Prop 30 is a mandate to the governor and to Darrell Steinberg to get their act together, learn to how to say "no" (especially to legacy projects and their public unions) and stop asking us to pay their electric bill after their trips to Vegas. Now that would be bold.

Russ and Mary Belden

Orinda

'Obamacare' for seniors

If you are on Medicare now, you may want to know that according to Investors.com on Oct. 1 the Obama administration started awarding bonus points to hospitals that spend the least on elderly patients and demerits to those that spend the most.

That will result in fewer knee and hip surgeries, angioplasty, bypass surgery and cataract operations ... procedures that have allowed seniors to lead active lives. In order to pay for Obamacare, they have cut $716 billion from future Medicare spending and will cut payments to hospitals, doctors, hospice care, home care and Advantage plans for seniors. In July, the actuary for Medicare warned Congress that seniors will have difficulty finding doctors and hospitals to accept Medicare.

Obama told a woman at a town-hall meeting, "Maybe you're better off not having the surgery but taking a pain killer". Rep. George Miller boasted that he co-wrote the "Affordable Care Act" (Obamacare). You might want to remember that when you go to the polls in November.

Jacqueline Cloidt

Orinda

Obama endorsement doesn't square with other Times views

Coming from an editorial board that has done real yeoman's work regarding the fiscal disaster facing all of us at the state and local level, it was really quite sad to read your endorsement of the president for a second term.

Clearly, your paper has staked its prestige on being out in front on the pension cost situation, which is impacting so many of our cities, counties and states. But your endorsement flies in the face of our staggering accumulation of debt at the federal level.

To quote your words: "Under Obama, progress has been slow or nonexistent on key fronts. He has yet to adequately address Social Security or Medicare solvency or tax reform. And we see no viable road map for living within our means without an annual federal deficit."

It is very difficult to square your expressed views on state/local fiscal matters with the above paragraph.

Your endorsement is thus very disappointing for those of us who see this as the mother-of-all-issues facing America.

Bill Fraser

Lafayette