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California busted through spending limits to feed the unions

California busted through spending limits to feed the unions

and thereby tarnished its Golden State standing

Truly, California is a very special state!

Today, I want to explain why.

Washington Examiner’s Senior Editorial Writer Conn Carroll offered an outstanding 5-part analysis recently: California in Crisis.

The first article in that series asked the following question: What happened to the Golden State?

What happened?

To make a long story short, the same political constituencies that have made Brown’s Democratic Party invincible at the ballot box have also made the state unable to compete economically. California public employees, who are represented by the nation’s most politically powerful government unions, benefit from some of the nation’s most generous compensation packages. These unions have made it nearly impossible to keep spending down, thus making debt and higher taxes inevitable.

In part, that is true. But, as with everything else in politics and economics, the real answer is substantially more complex.

When I moved to California in 1985, part of the draw was its vibrant economy. I originally hail from the Detroit area, and frankly, the city could have used an emergency financial manager back then.So, when the opportunity arose for me to go to San Diego, I took it.

Back then, the state budget was still being influenced by the Gann Limit.

What is that?

In the wake of the 1970’s era citizens revolt that brought the famous Proposition 13 and its restraints on property tax increases, the Gann Limit provided California with a constitutionally-based spending ceiling. A review from the Cato Institute explains its importance:

…after the passage of Proposition 13, fiscal conservatives were concerned that state spending increases would prompt California lawmakers to increase other taxes to compensate for the reduction in property tax revenues. As such, the Gann Limit was proposed as a mechanism to limit state spending.

Under the Gann Limit, a maximum bound was established for tax-funded government services. That bound was to be adjusted each year depending on changes in state population, inflation and the transfer of financial responsibility for various government activities from one level of government to another. Any significant amount of state tax revenue received above that Gann Limit was to lead to future tax rebates or tax cuts.

The Gann Limit was so successful that when tax receipts exceeded the set levels in 1987, the state refunded $1.1 billion in surplus revenues to the taxpayers.

Golden State indeed!

Sadly, in this state, for every taxpayer friendly ballot measure approved, two that strap citizens even more are passed.

So, money- and power-hungry politicos went to the box office to circumvent the Gann Limit. For example, the California’s education lobby worked hard to pass Proposition 98, which amended the California Constitution to mandate that at least 39 percent of the state budget be spent on K-12 education and then required the state to compensate for any decreases in education spending that occurred when revenues declined.

That helped lead to California’s expensive education failure.

At an average salary of $69,434 per year, a family of two teachers would bring in almost $140,000 in income per year. That is almost triple the state’s $57,000 median family income — and teachers get summers off.

…Since then, California per pupil education spending has continued to rise, and student test scores have not. In 2011, the most recent year available, California eighth-graders finished 48th in reading, ahead of just Louisiana and Mississippi, and 48th in math, ahead of just Alabama and Mississippi. Perhaps California should change its state motto to “Thank God for Mississippi.”

Couple the large salaries with union dues being used for political funding, and it plainly shows that the gutting of the Gann Limit is a significant, contributing factor to California’s fiscal struggles.

Our California citizen groups beginning to plan new ballot measures to counter those that have tarnished our finances, as this is apt to be the most successful course to take in the 2014 election cycle. The Gann Limit shows the power of a good one.


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And if (when) the Feds bail out California, then even people from Mississippi will be paying California’s union bosses.

    Conservative Beaner in reply to JOHN B. | March 3, 2013 at 9:11 am

    If eother one of my Senators or Representitive vote to bail out California they will not get my vote.

    RickCaird in reply to JOHN B. | March 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    The only Senators or Representatives (who want to keep their jobs) that will vote to bail out California will be from California or from states that hope to be bailed out next. Think Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts.

      markinct in reply to RickCaird. | March 3, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Heh… you left out Connecticut… We’re circling the drain, yet no one will admit it… they just wonder why George W. Bush is making the room spin….

Take a look around the country. All the cities and states nearing bankruptcy or in it are managed(PC) by dims. Is there something wrong with this picture?

ROFLMAO! Of course, the state motto should be ‘Thank God for Mississippi’ – but in Spanish. The Golden Bear should be taken off the state flag and replaced with the familiar image of the 3-person fleeing illegal family.

But hey, we’re getting a high speed rail!

Individual municipalities in California are already failing and going into bankruptcy. While no one wishes hard times for any group, the sooner the state of California (and/or Illinois) goes into bankruptcy, the better for the country. We survived Obamageddon handily. And we’ll survive Brown-geddon as well.

I’m 6th generation Californian – the sooner we “hit the floor”, the less of a smoking hole in the ground we’ll make, and the more jobs that won’t have fled. Also – if CA can go bankrupt in the next couple of years, it may have an effect on 2014 and 2016 national elections: “The Dems got everything they wanted in CA – do YOU want the Dems to get everything they want where you live?”

SoCA Conservative Mom | March 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm

The real problem is the voters. California is full of infantile, greedy, self-interested cry babies that want everyone else to pay their way and they know how to do it… vote yourself other people’s money.

    TrooperJohnSmith in reply to SoCA Conservative Mom. | March 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Those types of people are one of the last two exports left in Cali. Sadly, they are going to places like Washington and Oregon, where they have screwed up those states. Add Colorado to that list, and more and more of them are slinking over to Idaho, Montana, Arizona and even New Mexico, where they can’t really screw things up worse than they already are.

    Oh, the other California export? Jobs and job creators.

    It’s time So-Cal and the central valley secede from the rest of that sewer.

    There are some Dem voters whom I wouldn’t describe as infantile, greedy, self-interested etc., but they think they’re enlightened and compassionate to keep voting for Dems who will take care of the poor and the “undocumented workers” etc. And they think of themselves as part of the 99% without admitting that they’re actually part of the top 10% or 5%.

    Also, they’ve grown up thoroughly immersed in left-think and therefore find it hard to believe that intelligent and decent people could think differently.

Mark Buehner | March 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm

The salaries are ridiculous but its the pensions that are madness. Where did the idea that its reasonable for employees to retire with guaranteed pensions anything near equivalent to what they were making while working come from? Especially retiring in your 50s etc? Its lunatic on its face.

    TugboatPhil in reply to Mark Buehner. | March 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Mark, Where did those ideas come from? From Governor Moonbeam during his first term in the 70s. He was the Gov. that allowed public employees to unionize.

In Connecticut we have guaranteed pensions for state employees who (a) contributed nothing-$0.00 and (b) could retire as early as 45 years old. So we carry thousands of people for decades with nothing but taxpayer funds to pay for it.

And our Democratic State Treasurer says there is no problem; its the taxpayers fault because they haven’t paid in enough to carry the pensions and they will just have to pay more……

[…] » California busted through spending limits to feed the unions – Le·gal In&middot… […]

The problem with overall caps like the Gann Limit is that the politicians will consistently divert money from what people want to what the unions want.

Under the Gann Limit, transportation funding dried up as things like the gas tax were diverted to other things. After a decade or two of declining infrastructure and massive population increases, the Deomcrats went to the people and demanded the Gann Limit be lifted if there was to be road funding.

Sadly, they did not hang them from lampposts and instead removed the limit.

BTW, we then passed a hard rule against diverting gasoline sales taxes, so they went and lowered the gasoline sales tax and created a new, divertable, tax on gasoline.

Unless you throw them out or remove them some other way, initiatives are at best a holding action.

I expect that Prop 13 will be gone before too long. Those “rich people” in those houses “we” can’t afford yada yada yada.

No Dark Things | March 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm

It’s cute how people still think California can be saved. You need to let us go. Save yourselves.