Bouquets and Brickbats: Legislature’s sham budget passed for pay

First we have a budget, then we don’t and now — who knows?

The state budget adopted Wednesday by the Democratic Legislature was a sham anyway — a placeholder plan that was passed so lawmakers wouldn’t see their pay docked for failing to meet a June 15 budget deadline.

How greedy and cynical can they get?

Gov. Brown promptly vetoed the big hot mess of a budget — no huge surprise there — insisting on a plan that includes extending tax increases.

Republicans, meanwhile, refuse to budge on taxes. How partisan and bull-headed can they get?

So after weeks and weeks of so-called negotiating, nothing has changed. Still no budget — still no answers for local government agencies, schools, nonprofits and needy families waiting to learn how much more pain may be in store in the form of deeper cuts.

For that, we heave monstrous brickbats on both Democratic and Republican houses — along with a fervent plea that many of them will find themselves with no pay at all following the next election.

Congrats to new grads

We offer a congratulatory bouquet to each and every SLO County grad clutching a newly minted diploma — be it from junior high, high school or college.

For those of you entering the workforce, we know the job market is still tough. But as Tribune writer Julie Lynem recently reported, the situation is markedly better than it was last year. Full-time offers to Cal Poly grads are up 10 percent over 2010, and according to a national survey, employers plan on hiring nearly 20 percent more college graduates this year.

That said, the future may remain uncertain for many new grads, but for now, relax and enjoy the moment — you deserve it.

Blossoms for library staff

Starting July 1, it’s going to cost $1 to reserve a book at a SLO public library — up from 50 cents. That’s still one of the best bargains around.

The only grousing we’ve heard about the fee increase is from residents of smaller towns who say their little libraries aren’t as well stocked as bigger branches. That means they’re more apt to have to order books to get the selection they want.

That may be true — but would they really want to give up small-town ambiance to live closer to a well-stocked library?

All in all, the staffs of our local libraries do an excellent job in these challenging times — and we’re putting bouquets on reserve for all of them.

Water rate increase an obvious need

We’re not sure if the city’s slick PR campaign had anything to do with it, but serious opposition to SLO’s water rate increases failed to surface at a public hearing this week. Only 250 or so residents filed formal protests —nowhere close to the 7,351 that would have been needed to sink the rate hikes.

But go figure: The biggest threat came, not from the public, but from City Council members Kathy Smith and Dan Carpenter. Both of them voted against the increases of 10 percent this year and 9 percent next year.

Carpenter said he would prefer a different water rate formula that would include a flat fee. Smith said the rate increase would be too hard on seniors with fixed incomes.

We agree that rate increases are tough on just about everybody these days, but the city is financially obligated to pay its share of the Nacimiento Water Project. Without a series of rate increases, the city will have to dip into its reserves or worse, its general fund, in order to pay the debt. The vast majority of ratepayers recognize that. Why can’t Smith and Carpenter?

This is one occasion when unanimity on the part of the council would have sent a strong message of support for the city’s commitment to guaranteeing a reliable water supply. Smith and Carpenter get dry-as-a-bone brickbats to remind them of where we’d all be without water.

P.S.: The city has a financial assistance program to help low-income residents with their utility bills.

Information is available at www.slocity.org/finance/billing.asp.