Demography, it’s been said, is destiny — a society’s age cohorts, genders, ethnicities, income distributions, home ownership, education levels and other characteristics determine its place in the larger scheme of things.While California’s demographics are always changing, we are now experiencing one of our periodic, destiny-changing evolutions:- Our population growth has slowed markedly, from about 2½ percent a year during the 1980s to scarcely 1 percent today. Read More
Gov. Jerry Brown has formally proposed a $7-billion-a-year increase in sales and income taxes to close the state’s chronic budget deficit.
Whether it will be the only tax increase on the November ballot is uncertain. Several others are in the works, and if they reach the ballot as well, voter confusion could doom all. But assuming that Brown’s stands alone, how would the campaign shape up? Read More
California budgets used to be fairly simple documents, fundamentally allocating whatever financial resources the state might have at the moment among its various well-delineated responsibilities.No more.Proposition 13, enacted in 1978, had the indirect effect of centralizing major financial decision-making affecting local governments and schools in the Capitol.Those decisions were affected by subsequent ballot measures, and volatile revenue swings put the budget in a more or less permanent deficit condition. Read More
California’s population increased by 10 percent between 2000 and 2010 but the number of Californians living in poverty grew more than three times as fast, a new U.S. Census Bureau report reveals.
The data are found in a massive compilation of poverty statistics broken down by state, county and school district. And if the Census Bureau adopts a proposed new method gauging poverty, which takes into account regional and local costs of living and other factors, the state’s poverty rate may climb even higher. Read More
It’s difficult to divine exactly what the Occupy demonstrators in California cities and on university campuses are protesting.The former appear to be denouncing the greed of the “1 percent” — those with the highest incomes — while the latter are opposing fee increases that university boards are imposing to compensate for reductions in state appropriations. Read More
California’s political dysfunction has evolved from a theory first advanced by a few jaundiced observers a generation ago — including yours truly — to a widely embraced axiom that has spawned endless journalistic, academic and civic discourse.While there’s broad agreement on symptoms of California’s malaise, such as chronic budget deficits, there’s wide disagreement on its causes and what might be done to correct it. Read More
Jerry Brown sought his second stint as governor last year by promising to balance California’s deficit-riddled budget without gimmicks.
“Our state is in a real mess, and I’m not going to give you any phony plans or snappy slogans that don’t go anywhere,” Brown said in one ad. “We have to make some tough decisions.”
After winning, Brown conducted some showy public conferences and then proposed a budget that split the deficit between spending cuts and taxes requiring voter approval. Read More
The politics of workers’ compensation, which provides aid to those with job-related illnesses and injuries, resemble medieval Europe’s perpetual wars.
Employers, labor unions, insurers, medical care providers and attorneys who specialize in compensation claims continuously plot strategy to capture greater shares of the multibillion-dollar system.
They are stalemated most of the time, but roughly once a decade, a coalition of factions makes a tactical breakthrough by changing the system’s rules. Read More
It’s unfortunate — but nevertheless political reality — that the Capitol almost never moves beyond money in its perpetual debate over how California’s 6 million-plus public school students should be educated.While money is certainly important, it’s just as certainly not the only factor, and likely not even the most important one, in how well students fare.Family engagement, language barriers, popular culture, peer pressure and quality of teaching all influence outcomes that are, according to the latest national academic tests, among the nation’s worst. Read More
It’s amazing that more than three decades after its passage, Proposition 13 is still such a polarizing political symbol.
Those on the right revere Proposition 13 for slashing property taxes and making it more difficult to raise other taxes, while those on the left see it as political deviltry, denying sustenance to vital public services.
The left knows that a frontal assault would fail. Read More
It’s been nearly three months since the California redistricting commission released its maps for 177 congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts.
They’re not quite final. A Republican-backed referendum to overturn state Senate maps is pending, with signatures to qualify for next year’s ballot being submitted this week. Read More
The political Sturm und Drang over California’s public-employee pensions, like all emotional debates, has tended to obscure the underlying facts of the issue.If nothing else, however, the report on Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension-reform plan that the Legislature’s budget analyst released this week should give all combatants, and the public, a clearer understanding of the issue’s financial and legal, if not political, parameters. Read More
The California Transportation Commission’s latest snapshot of transportation services and needs — state and local, public and private — is a dense document that paints an ominous picture of decline.
The CTC’s bottom line: What we have is falling apart from heavy use and much-neglected maintenance, and as population and travel demand increase, we must add more capacity to handle both human and goods movement or face increasing gridlock and economic decay.
Bullet-train cheerleaders claim that building it will negate the need to spend $170 billi Read More
An oft-repeated cliche of political discourse — whose exact origin is unclear — goes something like this: “They didn’t see the light until we turned up the heat.”
Like many cliches, it has a valid core, and the California version is that the Legislature has tended to ignore a difficult issue until someone threatens to take it to the voters via an initiative ballot measure.
That was certainly true when Proposition 13, the progenitor of the modern era of ballot measure activism, qualified for the 1978 ballot. Read More
From its inception, California’s high-speed rail project had two troublesome aspects: It was a dreamy solution in search of a problem, and it could become a money pit draining taxpayers’ money better spent on other, more cogent needs.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority, whose credibility has been shredded by countless missteps, unveiled a much revised “business plan” Tuesday that largely deals with the money-pit issue. Read More