Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

When it Comes to Politics and Policy, California Thinks Too Small

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Lightning streaking past Empire State Building on July 26.

    They say size matters. They say bigger is better.

    In some things. But not in California politics.

    Yes, the state has big problems. And it needs big changes to its governing system. But no one wants those things. We only do, and debate, the small.

    California has huge problems with employee compensation and hundreds of billions of unfunded obligations for pensions and other retiree benefits.

    Our response: pension legislation that is small and would save only a fraction of those obligations.

    The state has a structural imbalance between receipts and revenues. So do we make big changes to the budget system? Or do we raise revenues permanently to bridge the gap? 

    No, we have a two-year debate about relatively small, temporary changes to tax rates.

    That's the madness of Prop 30. The debate over the temporary tax initiative is really about revenues that would be only temporary and would represent well less than 10 percent of the budget.

    The alternative? Another temporary tax increase that is supposed to save education but wouldn't even get the state's spending on schools up to the national average.

    But that our media, our political elites, and voters no longer seem to recognize how small these changes are.

    These fights only look big because this big state has, in its politics, become so tiny.

    Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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