Greece provides a good doomsday lesson for us
California's total debt is $778 billion. Every one of the 37 million people in our state owes more than $21,000.
While it's hard for most to draw meaning from these figures, Greece's scenario provides a good lesson. With debt spiraling out of control years ago and no serious effort to control it, creditors eventually ended the game of permanent non-repayment. The "official" unemployment rate there is more than 27 percent. Young people are leaving Greece because there are no jobs and no future.
In the United States and California, the game of financial chicken will eventually come to an end. The sooner we figure out now to pay off our debts, the less painful it will be.
One of Gov. Jerry Brown's techniques in his debt-reduction plan is raising taxes. California's income, sales and business taxes are among the highest in the country.
Reducing the debt by raising funds from citizens through taxes may help in the short term, but at what price? If businesses and taxpayers, particularly those providing most of the tax receipts, continue to leave California, the hollowing-out of the tax base will torpedo our long-term future.
Brown should include tax relief in his program as debt is gradually wound down.
Budget proposal is just political stunt
Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget savings of $24.9 billion is a very small drop in the bucket of California's long-term debt.
State and local governments' long-term debt was $848.4 billion in April 2013. The state's portion of this was $299 billion. (California Public Policy Center report of April 26, 2013.)
We taxpayers cannot comprehend the total debt obligation we shoulder based upon the very narrow view Brown and the Democratic legislators want us to accept. Ignore the big picture and soon this wall of debt will begin to crumble.
California voters must take Brown's and the Democrats' proposed budget for what it really is: an election year stunt to curry favor and votes for re-election, with no guarantee cuts will continue after the elections.
This year, we must remove these irresponsible politicians from office and replace them with people who know how to actually balance a budget and cut spending to the bone. Social programs for illegal immigrants, high-speed rail and the Twin Tunnels are good places to start.
The wall of debt is looming.
State debt should actually increase
To adequately address the question, one must first understand the nature and status of the current monetary system.
If the current monetary system is honest, stable, provides a free market return to savers, does not allow the creation of billions of monetary units daily (debasement of the currency), and is based on something that cannot be readily manipulated by central banks and politicians, then by all means, debt should be paid off quickly.
If, on the other hand, none of these conditions exist, or the opposite exists in the extreme, and the monetary units are merely debt-based IOUs supported by nothing (an unsustainable situation as monetary history and exponential math have demonstrated 100 percent of the time), then the reverse applies: Borrow as much as possible as long as the monetary units are still accepted by world citizens.
Astute readers will readily decide which situation applies.
Chris R. Kniel
Must pay down debt, but it won't happen
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature should prioritize and focus on paying down the state debt; however, that will never happen, even with the $6 billion a year or so in sales tax and income tax increases he bamboozled the voters into voting for.
Brown's wall of debt remains with an estimated $200 billion in unfunded public pensions and retiree health care liabilities.
He wants to instead strap the state with two infrastructure projects, the $68 billion high-speed rail system, and a $24 billion water plan. Those were the estimated costs as of July 2013, according to news media.
Can't afford to pay increasing interest
Yes, of course one of the main priorities for California should be to pay off our debts. We can't afford to continue paying an ever-increasing amount of interest expense for which we get no benefit.
California's economy has recently been following the path of the U.S., and is like an obese patient who is sick with a number of ailments and bleeding profusely. The first priority would be to stop the blood loss.
I think that Jerry Brown has proposed a good plan and I hope that it will be implemented. Additionally, all he needs to do is "temporarily" suspend all pension payments until a source of funds can be identified to support these payments.
Stop spending and put more money aside
With the surplus this year, Gov. Jerry Brown should pay down debt and put money aside for a rainy day rather than initiate more spending programs. This is the financially responsible thing to do.
Find better design for high-speed rail
A high priority, but not at the top. If high-speed rail survives, for example, lop off blended rail (high-speed rail on Caltrain tracks from San Jose to San Francisco) instead.
The 2008 Prop 1-A bond act called for safe, reliable high-speed trains. Blended rail -- with Caltrain's many passenger platforms and 43 grade crossings -- would be very costly, but neither safe nor reliable.
For now, make cross-platform transfers in San Jose from HSR to both Caltrain and Capitol Corridor. Save about 50 miles of costly HSR.
Later, upgrade the Amtrak East Bay route via Mulford to a San Francisco Bay Rail Hub station under the BART overhead in Oakland.
Better, safer, more reliable, and cheaper than blended rail as proposed. BART runs about every four minutes, and all four downtown San Francisco stations are only six to 10 minutes way.
Robert S. Allen