With a $16 billion deficit and facing draconian cuts to basic services even if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax proposal passes, Californians are fearful and angry at our state government.
A recent poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California showed that only 17 percent of likely voters approve of the job being done by the Legislature and 88 percent believe that “some” or “a lot” of the money we give to the state government is wasted.
Brown’s 12-point plan to reform public pensions would have saved the state billions but is still being “studied” by Sacramento union stooges, and no one there seems to sense the urgent need to do anything besides threaten cuts to the neediest among us or raise taxes.
But as the history of Proposition 13 has shown us, if our politicians don’t offer to solve this problem, someone else will.
And by the time a blunt-instrument initiative captures our fears and offers an easy answer to pensions and government waste, it will be too late.
Love it or hate it (or both), Prop. 13’s restraint on property-tax hikes has profoundly affected how the state functions — moving power from localities to Sacramento and forcing one of the world’s largest economies to rely on temperamental sales and income taxes.
Had the Legislature acted earlier, it might not have been so severe. By the time it finally convened in January 1978 to hammer out a property-tax compromise as an alternative to Prop. 13, it was too late.
Prop. 13 had already qualified for the June 1978 ballot and the Sacramento proposal was Proposition 8, later described by journalist John Fund as a “pale and tepid last-minute attempt” to thwart Prop. 13. Given that choice, voters chose Prop. 13.
“I think a lot of us in Sacramento ... really didn’t measure the distress of homeowners accurately enough,” then-Assembly Speaker Leo McCarthy said in 1995. “We didn’t understand, and should have, the fears of a lot of these homeowners.”
Our elected leaders and the special interests they represent should heed the lessons of Prop. 13 and understand that our outrage is real and urgent.
Ducking the need for reform only makes the electorate vulnerable to the wiles of another charming chainsaw approach.
November’s dark horse
Tuesday, voters will head to the polls to participate in a “top-two” primary where we can choose anyone we want from a list qualified candidates. One fun element of this new system of bypassing political parties is that candidates can list themselves as having “no party preference” and still have a chance at a November runoff.
A total of 33 candidates have designated themselves “no party preference” on the ballot — some running for congressional seats and others for spots in the Legislature.
But what were they before they converted? According to the secretary of state, nine were Democrats and 12 were Republicans, with three Green Party members and two former members of the American Independent party. Seven list no historical affiliation.
Of the four NPP candidates who are female, none is a former Democrat. Three are former Republicans and one is a former American Independent member.
Now, it may seem that these folks are at a disadvantage without a party apparatus for funding and campaigning, but an NPP candidate could take money from any source with an axe to grind against another candidate. These NPP candidates might not prefer a particular party, but a party could certainly prefer an NPP candidate.