California Consolation Prizes

   It is obvious to all that California is losing the game in terms of budget deficits with the resultant impact on education and social services – and has been for a long time.  Sometimes it is not enough to play better, you have to change the game.  Some of that is happening out here.

    Jerry Brown’s first task as governor is to set an honest budget without the gimmics that his predecessors used, within the boundaries of a legislature that is just short of being two-thirds Democrat, and with a set of past voter initiatives that directs significant chunks of state spending. By most accounts his proposals of this week for the next 18 months do that, cutting spending by $12 billion, seeking voter approval to extend “temporary” taxes (.25% on income; 1% on sales) for another $12.5 billion, and protecting only k-12 education. He is using a scalpel, eliminating some programs entirely (redevelopment agencies; enterprise zones), adding copays for Medicaid, cutting his staff by 25%, and cutting government cars and cell phones. A good start.

    Brown has two legacies from his “Governor Moonbeam” days that his Jesuit objective introspection will help him address:

        1. His granting of collective bargaining rights to public employee unions in the 70’s opened the door and terrible labor practices by subsequent administrations resulted in a $500 billion (?) deficit in public employee pension plans. In July he proposed reform measures to include an increase in retirement ages, elimination of “spiking” of calculations, increased employee contributions, and more effective management of the fund administrators. All directionally correct.

    2. With the passage of Proposition 13 limiting local property taxes in 1978, Governor Brown used state funds to cover immediate shortfalls, accelerating the transfer of funding and control of local activities to Sacramento. Important, but less mentioned, in his budget proposal was the proposal to shift money and programs back to the local level for things such as mental health, foster care, some fire services, and court security. While Prop 13 is sacred state-wide, one could foresee a partial migration toward “local option” where San Francisco can make different decisions than Bakersfield.

    With the election of Mayor Gavin Newsom to Lieutenant Governor and the election of four Chinese Supervisors, San Francisco is undergoing its own shift toward the center. The headlines are about the selection of technocrat City Administrator Ed Lee as interim mayor until November and Police Chief George Gascon replacing the liberal Kamela Harris as District Attorney. (In the Democrats’ clean sweep she replaced Jerry Brown as state AG.) But the real message is about  the home-owning, public school attending Chinese community, which makes up one third of the population displacing the ultra-liberal Democratic Party Central Committee establishment at the center of power. For those who like the detail, the key event was Board of Supervisors President David Chiu’s decision to support Lee for mayor, abandoning the liberals. Behind the scenes, Newsom delayed moving to Sacramento until it happened, Willie Brown (a long time beneficiary of Chinese support) was a key intermediary, and king-maker Rose Pak of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce had her way. The Chinese community is no longer just a source of Democratic votes; they are the primary voice. And their demographic weight continues to grow.

    In a city and state with few Republicans, this is as good as it gets.


For the complete post see: www.RightinSanFrancisco.com.