Friday, January 30, 2009

Not So Golden State

First we find out that Californians will receive IOUs instead of tax refunds because the state treasury is empty. (The state says it will be only a 30 day delay; we will see how that works out.) Then today we hear that the Governor has ordered state employees to take off two days without pay each month to help offset the $42 billion projected deficit.

The bad news for me is that I was expecting a tax return this year from California because of my summer job. The good news is that I have long abandoned any desire to work for the California state government, especially after going against two state attorneys last summer who should not just get paid at all.

In all seriousness though, it just seems so bleak for the land of sunshine and prosperity. As much as I want to blame this all on Governor Schwarzenegger, I really think this would have happened to any person in his shoes. Maybe not as bad, maybe worse, but ultimately California is an ungovernable state.

Federalism gave California the opportunity to be the laboratory for direct democracy. There are the initiatives and referendums that let uneducated voters tie up the budget with frivolous projects and at the same time impair the state's ability to raise revenue (thank you Prop 13). There are the term limits which mean that our state legislators have little experience, less long-term thinking budget-wise, and little accountability to constituents since they don't have to worry about re-election. And for some reason we thought that being one of three states in the country to require a 3/5 super majority to pass the budget was a good idea when in reality, it just leads to tax cuts and spending increases so that both Democrats and Republicans are happy. (Can you tell that I wrote a paper about this in my California public policy class?)

We had our little experiment, and now its time to end it. Letting the people run the state is not a good idea, especially when the whole country is going through economic woes. I have no idea how one would contain this monster, but I selfishly hope things get better by the time I come back.

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