One of the biggest problems facing California today is the huge fraction of the state budget that is committed to funding or servicing the debt on initiatives passed by voters. While many of these are worthy when viewed in isolation, it’s a truly insane way to carve up what is a limited pot of money. The legislature – dysfunctional as it may sometimes be – needs to be able to craft a budget that represents the the true needs of the state and the spending priorities of its citizens, and not be held hostage to the free-spending whims of the … More >
Californians are beginning to appreciate that our prison system is deeply flawed and unsustainable. But the prisons are only the center of a whole way of imagining public safety that has dominated California for nearly 40 years and which has left us badly positioned to confront the risks we face in this new century. We need a new way of thinking about public safety.
Our current model places violent crime at the center of our public universe. The swollen prisons now contain some 6X their population in 1980, nearly 170,000 adults. Built to contain armies of Charles Manson’s, and Richard Allen … More >
What ails California? Let me count the ways:
1. A two-thirds voting requirement for new taxes and for budgets,
2. Legislative districts that are apportioned so that they’re either Democratic or Republican – resulting in the extremes running against more moderates in primaries, and summoning enough votes to get in,
3. Initiatives that, over the years, have mandated that certain items get funded regardless of other priorities,
4. A prison system that continues to grow, locking up ever more people at a cost of $45,000 each, even though many are non-violent offenders who are imprisoned because they’ve violated the law three times,
5. Public employee … More >
California voters have a long history of shooting themselves in the foot. Prop 13 is one calamity, especially the provision that requires a 2/3 legislative vote to pass a budget. (The tax provisions are obscenely unfair, but that’s a different issue.) Term limits is a second crippling measure. What ails California? In a nut-shell, lack of political statemanship. Term limits deprives Californians of experienced leaders, knowledgable about law making, some of whom might occasionally put public interest above self-serving personal goals, and skilled enough to parry the thrusts of special interest lobbyists. What we have in Sacramento is a bunch … More >
Californians will need to change the rules of the political game to get state politics back on track. Allowing simple majority voting in the legislature on budgets and taxes is a good start. Reforming the way we draw the lines around electoral districts could also help. If political parties had fewer safe seats, they might move to the center to attract moderate voters, and be forced to compromise more.
Beyond the rules of the game, we also have to change and broaden the cast of players — and I don’t just mean who is sitting in Sacramento. Currently, California has a huge … More >
The drop in state spending is exacerbating the recession. Beyond getting the states to spend more now, we need to think about how to make state spending more resilient to downturns going forward. A more sensible approach to taxes will help. More >