Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Sunday, Jun. 8, 2014 – 12:00 am

Approval ratings of the California Legislature, as measured in periodic polling, were in the teens a few years ago but have since improved.

A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California says that 40 percent of all adults – but just 29 percent of likely voters – like the Legislature’s performance.

A couple of balanced budgets probably account for the Legislature’s better public standing. However, the next time you hear someone crow about what a bang-up job the Legislature is doing, consider these glaring shortcomings:

• The state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund was weakened in the last decade when the Legislature sharply increased benefits without raising revenues to pay for them. So when recession hit, and more than a million jobs vanished, the UIF took a beating and the state began borrowing from the federal government, eventually running up a $10 billion tab.

Many other states also borrowed, but according to a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, most raised payroll taxes and/or reformed benefits to clear their debts and rebuild reserves.

Gov. Jerry Brown has sought action, but the Legislature has ignored him. Meanwhile, the state is paying hefty interest charges on the debt and the feds have raised payroll taxes on employers to nibble away at the principal.

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