Tuesday, June 02, 2009

My Rant About California Government

If you don't care about California or what I think of it then you won't get much out of today's post.

People keep saying that California may be too big to govern as a state or too complex or too diverse or [insert excuse here]. California has been designed to fail, and it's poised to do that brilliantly.

The kids' mom and I had just bought our first home in 1975 and, at the point that my son was due and his mother unemployed and our property taxes had damn near doubled already, I voted for Proposition 13 to roll back and cap property taxes. I don't remember exactly when the 2/3rds requirement to raise taxes in the legislature was passed, but we did that, too. The only sources of new revenue left then were 'fees' and property reassessments on most transfers or sales.

California has also gerrymandered its legislative districts to protect the incumbent parties so that, although the Republicans may never gain a majority, the Democrats will never have a 2/3rds majority. (I went to a community meeting in January and representatives of both Assemblymen spoke. The Democrat's staff was asked what part of Rowland Heights he represented and they didn't know, which is not surprising because he represents a narrow strip along the 60 freeway connecting the Democratic enclave to the east and the one to the west and in which I happen to live.)

For years now California voters have been asked if we want to spend X percent of revenue for schools to which we say yes, and it gets 'borrowed' and spent elsewhere. We've been asked if we want to commit gas taxes to transportation infrastructure to which we say yes, and it's been 'borrowed' and spent elsewhere. We pass a tobacco tax for anti-smoking programs and it gets hijacked into the general fund. Every election cycle they ask us what we want to spend the money on and, immediately afterward, they 'borrow' it and spend it elsewhere, because it doesn't matter what a majority of Californians want if we can't get 2/3rds of the legislature to vote for a way to pay for it all.

The chickens have come home to roost now. With revenues below 2003 levels, and our existing debt service and fixed expenses, there is no discretionary money and there is no recourse in the legislature. Thirty years of smoke and mirrors and fancy accounting moves have run their course, and California is broke.

I would encourage whomever is left here after the 2010 census to keep control of reapportionment completely out of the hands of the political parties. (I would make party affiliation disqualifying for participation.) By then one might hope that Californians will be ready to rebuild their state... or not because by then I have no intention of being a Californian.

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