Alternative Solutions in a Single-Party State

By Bob Hazard   |   January 9, 2020

California has been reliably blue for most of the last 20 years and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. At the state level, Democrats control the Governorship (Gavin Newsom), the Lieutenant Governor (Eleni Kounalakis), the Attorney General (Xavier Becerra), and the Secretary of State (Alex Padilla). They have attained a super majority in the State Assembly with 61 Democrats to only 18 Republicans and a super majority in the California Senate of 29 Democrats to only 11 Republicans.

At the national level, both of California’s Senators are true blue (Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein and Junior Senator Kamala Harris). In the U.S. House of Representatives, California sends 46 elected Democrats and only seven Republicans to Washington.

At the local level, there is hardly a whiff of difference in the political positions of Democrats Das WilliamsGregg Hart, and Joan Hartmann, who together represent a 3-2 majority on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. The GOP has become irrelevant and almost invisible.

79.1% of eligible voters are now registered to vote in California, up sharply from the 72.7% registration rate in the year before the 2016 presidential election. Of the 19.9 million registered voters, Democrats boast 43.1% of the electorate. Registered Republican voters have declined from 28% of the electorate in 2015 to only 23.6% today.

Registered Independent share of voters in California has climbed from 23.6% in 2015 to 28.3%, today, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Any hope for a Republican win in California is whimsical.

Running California Well

The party in power advocates that illegal border crossings should be decriminalized; corporate taxes and taxes on well-to-do individuals should be increased; healthcare should be free; student loans should be forgiven; the Supreme Court should be populated with more liberals; the electoral college should be abolished; capitalism is evil; charter schools should be disallowed; and the theft of goods with a value of less than $950 should be a misdemeanor rather than a felony that carries jail time.

Progressives believe that the present economy needs to be scrapped and replaced with a “Green New Deal” at a 10-year cost of $52 to $92 trillion. The current U.S. Social Security System, which is approaching bankruptcy, now consumes 24% of the federal budget, or $945 billion dollars per year. The “Green New Deal” would be five to nine times more expensive than Social Security.

“Medicare for All,” at a price tag of $31 to $34 trillion over the next 10 years, is seen as an affordable replacement for ObamaCare. “Medicare for All” would be three times more expensive than Social Security. Can these new programs be supported without raising taxes on middle wage earners?

No other state is plagued with as many power failures and resulting blackouts. Rather than take responsibility, elected leaders in California blame the state’s highly regulated PG&E and Southern California Edison, which have admitted responsibility for 2,133 wildfires started between 2015-18 due to faulty utility equipment. Many suggest government-run utility companies are the most viable option.

Questions for California’s Elected Leadership

Why are California state and local elected leaders avoiding the unfunded public pension problem, and lifetime healthcare costs of public employees, when they know that these costs are unsustainable? Can nibbling at the edges be described as emboldened, enlightened leadership?

Why does California rank last (50 out of 50) as the worst state in which to do business according to the nation’s CEOs?

Why is California’s homelessness rate the nation’s highest? The Dems insist they are not to blame for the rampant homelessness in California or the lack of affordable housing. 129,972 Californians experienced homelessness in 2018, up 14% since 2014. California leads the nation in both the highest number of homeless residents and the highest proportion of unsheltered homeless at 69%. Are rising housing costs causing the poor to abandon homes to sleep in cars or join the homeless?

Why is the median California home now priced two and a half times higher than the median national average? Why is homeownership in California at its lowest rate since WWII? Why are California home rental rates among the highest in the nation?

Why are California’s elected leaders at both the state and local levels not focusing on job creation and making it less expensive to live here? Why does California have the highest gasoline prices in the nation, but the worst road conditions and trash littered highways? Why is regular gasoline priced at $4.00 a gallon in Montecito while in equally environmentally conscious Colorado, regular gas sells for $2.14 – a full $1.86 per gallon cheaper? Why does electricity cost double in California compared to what consumers pay in Oregon?

What Can California Learn from Other States?

In early December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Utah has discovered a deceptively simple secret to success: Adopt policies that make it affordable to live there for residents and make every effort to encourage business development and job creation.

Utah has a low, flat-rate state income tax of 4.95%. Neighboring states Nevada and Wyoming have no state income tax. The California state income tax is progressive – up to 12.3% with households reporting incomes over $1 million being assessed an additional 1%. The average sales rate tax in Utah is 6.76%. The sales tax rate in California is the nation’s highest at a minimum rate of 7.25%.

Utah is a right-to-work state, meaning workers can’t be compelled to join a union or pay union dues. In California, workers in union represented companies and government are forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. 27 states now have right to work laws freeing employees from compulsory union dues.

Utah ranks #3 in Infrastructure, #5 in Fiscal Stability, and # 24 in Opportunity according to U.S. News and World Report’s list of “The Best States in 2019.” California ranks #23 in Infrastructure, #42 in Fiscal Stability, and #49 in Opportunity.

Utah public school spending of $7, 207 per pupil is worse than California’s $9,417 per pupil, but its high school graduation rate of 85.2% is slightly higher than California’s 83%. Utah’s 8th grade NAEP test scores in reading proficiency at 38.0% outrank California at 28.4%. Similarly, 8th grade math proficiency scores in Utah of 37.9% outrank California at 28.4%.

Utah is among the first states in the nation to begin erasing unsustainable public pension liabilities by shifting state employees to a defined contribution pension system which allows the state to apply more funding to road construction and maintenance, better schools, affordable healthcare and low-income housing.

Utah has a long tradition of being frugal on how it spends tax dollars. It holds its elective leaders accountable for overspending and padded budgets to reward political cronies.

Best of all, Utah ranks #1 for equality of incomes according to the latest census bureau data. Median incomes are up and poverty is down thanks to Utah’s booming economy and strong job creation. California ranks near the bottom – #46 out of 50 states in income inequality.

Call to Action

Is it possible to ask our blue elected leaders to sometimes act in little ways more like Utah?

 

Continue reading...

Advertisement