Drawing comparisons between Richmond, California and local municipalities, Brian Goebel builds on the Los Angeles Times’ series on “California’s Pension Crisis” to argue in a Post on 2040matters.com that Santa Barbara area governments must take steps today to mitigate the many adverse consequences of exploding pension contributions.
As we enter the holiday season with the “Trump bump” in the stock market and a steady stream of accolades for President Obama’s economic stewardship in light of our declining unemployment rate, it is important to consider whether Santa Barbara County is on sound financial footing. History has taught us (repeatedly, unfortunately) that overly optimistic economic predictions can lead to poor policy choices that, in turn, have disastrous impacts on our public finances and quality of life. Misplaced economic optimism has, for example, caused our public employee pension costs to soar over the past two decades. This enormous expense – well over $100m a year – has, in turn, eroded funding for our parks, roads, and government buildings, contributing to an unfunded deferred maintenance backlog of well over $300m.
Reason in Government assesses the Propositions on the November ballot in light of its view that voters should be reluctant to approve Propositions in most cases because they undermine the virtues of the legislative process.
Seeking to avoid additional scrutiny of the high-speed rail project he has championed, Governor Brown vetoed a bill that would have increased legislative oversight over the project. Reason in Government scored the bill favorably in our Legislator Scorecard. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the veto is a disservice to California taxpayers who must continue to foot the bill for an expensive project that will, if completed, provide minimal environmental and transportation benefits (at best).
The LA Times recently urged voters to reject Proposition 55, which would extend the supposedly temporary sales and income tax increases enacted through Proposition 30. Not only does the proposed 12 year extension make a mockery of the previous promise that these tax increases would be temporary, but as the LA Times argues convincingly, it relieves the Legislature of any responsibility for devising tax reform designed to promote growth, collect needed revenue, and reduce the State’s vulnerability to volatility in the stock market. This Proposition, like many others, begs the question: “What do we send legislators to Sacramento to do?”