When last Tuesday’s six ballot propositions emerged as the capitol’s must-dos from last year’s budget crisis, California’s most prominent business groups from the state to local levels got in line and complied with Sacramento’s pleas for support.
Most groups held their noses and endorsed measures 1A to 1F, reasoning the consequences of their failure would be worse than their passage.
But the voters felt otherwise, crushing every tax increase and budget-gerrymandering measure by wide margins. For good measure, they voted overwhelmingly for Proposition 1F to freeze lawmakers’ wages in deficit years.
The initial response to the defeat from Sacramento was to once again insult California voters with threats to release tens of thousands of prisoners into California communities. Schools, health care and public safety would be cut.
Perhaps Sacramento did not get the message of last Tuesday. Yes, there are well-meaning and talented people in Sacramento. But far too often state government is bloated, ineffective, self-serving, out of touch and seems to have forgotten that it exists to serve the people, not vice versa.
There was a time not so long ago when state tax revenues were returned to communities to build roads and other critical infrastructure and protect the public. Today, too much of Californians’ tax dollars go to support poorly managed transfer programs, rule-making bureaucracies and overly generous benefits and pensions for state employees.
Tuesday was more than election. It was a revolt against what state government has become.
Now, we won’t pretend to know where all the cuts could and should be made and what priorities should be set.
After all, that’s what we elect legislators to do, although we might suggest they could start with the California Integrated Waste Management Board, where unelected politicians frequently retire to $132,000 annual salaries, big budgets and plenty of staff.
But more importantly, perhaps the time has come for Sacramento to reconsider whether it’s actually helping or hurting its citizens when it imposes the nation’s highest corporate tax rate on companies and fosters a regulatory climate that is expensive and often anti-business.
If legislators get that message from Tuesday, perhaps there is hope.