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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Blogger Ingineer66 said...

Hello, I came over from Rainy Day thoughts. I am up in the north part of California and you are correct the State is broke and broken. They take in a ton of money, but yet keep coming up with new programs each year to spend it on. I wish there were a way to fire everyone in the legislature at one time and start over. People have started calling for a constitutional convention, but I am not sure even that would work at this point. We need some statesmen not power grabbing politicos.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Kay Dennison said...

You deserve to rant! Mass impeachment and starting from scratch sounds like the oonly sensible solution and it sounds pretty nutty to me but then I've tgougfht of that on the federal level, too. Sigh.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Rain said...

It seems this is the story of our culture period right now from the corporate level to the federal to the local. I don't know if there is any real answer other than let it all go bust and later try to start over with a more realistic system. We cannot keep borrowing. I wish I felt more positive but you listed all the reasons that I do not

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your idea about keeping political parties out of the business of drawing voting districts. Gerrymandering is a dirty word in my book!
Cop Car

1:40 PM  
Blogger joared said...

You certainly drew a good word picture of the sorry condition Calif. is in, how we got here and why we're stuck.

Now as cities are struggling, the probability of the State taking more of the locals money is coming closer to reality. I guess we have to find some way to prevent that, too, in the future -- if we ever get out from under our present situation.

Whatever approach is taken toward extricating ourselves from this disaster we're all going to suffer more than we can imagine.

12:19 AM  
Blogger popps said...

Hi - as you may or may not remember i am in France , a long way from California AND i still read papers from my home country - England.
To add to the time delay in news i get out California from other sources than you i read a weekly newspaper.
This week, finally (end sep 2009) they report about the problems you are talking about.
When i first visited San francisco as an impressionable 23 year old i thought the ballot paper propositions were a fantastic initiative, wishing that England had something going like that.
In the article i have just read they are blamed for the current mess.
What do you think?

3:09 PM  

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