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.
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?”
Claiming that the Department of Conservation and State Lands Commission should have the primary responsibility for identifying and remediating leaking oil wells along the California Coast, Governor Brown vetoed a bill sponsored by Senator Jackson that would have spurred funding to cap leaking wells in Summerland and elsewhere along the coast. Noozhawk flagged the veto earlier this week. Even if he is right that existing State agencies have the authority and responsibility to identify and remediate leaking oil wells along our coast, Governor Brown’s belated direction that these agencies do their jobs does nothing for the residents of Summerland and begs the question: “What have these agencies been doing for the last decade as oil has consistently leaked onto Summerland Beach from the long-abandoned Becker Well?”
In a recent piece in the Orange County Register entitled “The revolution will be livestreamed,” Brian Goebel, the President of Reason in Government, discusses the future of political parties as they grapple with Millennials and the consumer preference to tailored content.