As 2022 draws to a close, despite the positive bleatings of the politicians, this was not a great year for California.
The once-projected $100 billion surplus could have been used to reconfigure the state’s tax system, which is overdependent on the PIT — the personal income tax. It wasn’t. Instead, the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office is predicting a $25 billion deficit beginning next July 1.
Everybody knows the PIT is like a roller coaster: revenue goes way up in good times, way down in bad times. It’s nosediving now. The latest among many high-tech companies suffering layoffs, from the San Francisco Chronicle, “Thumbtack, the San Francisco online services marketplace, is laying off around 14% of its staff.”
In the Legislature, Republicans not only failed to gain seats, they lost one in the Assembly, to 18 of 80; and another in the Senate, to 8 of 40. In both houses they’re well below the one-third needed to stop a tax increase. Even if you’re not a Republican, you might feel the effects of their impotence if the supermajority Democrats decide to increase your taxes to make up for that $25 billion deficit.
Democrats easily won all the statewide offices, beginning with the governor. Whatever the reasons for the GOP’s failure, one-party states don’t do well. Democracy only exists if there’s competition.
Republicans also lost a majority on the Orange County Board of Supervisors for the first time in five decades. Democrats also picked up a majority on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors The boards’ 3-2 Democratic majority will be entirely in fealty to the public-employee unions at a time when critical fiscal decisions will run against profound economic uncertainty.
Clearly, the party that ran San Francisco and Los Angeles into the ground isn’t doing so well at the state level, either.
Several of my friends have skedaddled out of California this year for the Volunteer State, with several others planning to go in 2023 or ‘24. They’re part of an exodus of another 250,000 this year to other states. That means the Golden State, which lost one House member after the 2020 U.S. Census, probably will lose another — or two — in 2030.
Contrast that with the 1980s, when I came here in 1987. The state gained 6 million in population and six House seats.
Gov. Gavin Newsom calls it the California Way. But for increasing numbers of people, it’s the way out.
The exodus hasn’t helped housing affordability. According to the California Association of Realtors, just 36% of households can afford to buy a home in Q3, compared to 42% a year earlier. Prices have dipped a bit, but of course interest rates have soared, and along with them mortgages.
The median home price in Orange County, where I live, still is $1.03 million. The only people who can afford those kinds of prices are millionaire entrepreneurs who haven’t left yet and tax-stuffed members of the public-employee unions.
One-party rule has also failed California’s kids.Reports on schools post-pandemic showed test scores dropped sharply due to the excessively severe lockdowns. Approximately 84% of black and 79% of Latino students failed to meet state math standards. Even though the state, according to the June budget document, is spending nearly $24,000 a year per student.
Some of the few bright spots this year were when San Francisco recalled three nutty leftist school board members, then recalled radical District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
Among Republicans, when a litany of problems with California is listed, someone is likely to crack, “Well, the weather still is great!” Indeed it is.
Growing up in Michigan, snow was fun when I was a kid. But when you’re an adult, it’s no fun driving in the snow while the salt eats out the body and frame of your flivver. As we enjoy the balmy weather, I wish you a merry Christmas and happy new year.
John Seiler is on the SCNG editorial board.