SACRAMENTO – California’s Democratic leaders are giddy about the future now that they have gained everything they wanted in the recent election – voter-approved tax increases and two-thirds supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, thus rendering Republicans little more than an annoying irrelevancy who can no longer block tax hikes.
Will Democrats just ramp up the taxing-and-spending spree or will some semblance of a "moderate" Democratic caucus emerge to offer a limited check on those tendencies? Either way, it’s hard to find good news for taxpayers or business owners, although the state’s public-sector unions ought to be stocking up on champagne.
Given that backdrop, I offer some subdued predictions for the new year.
No. 1: Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislative leadership will continue to argue that the state government is on a bare-bones diet and, therefore, continue to look for additional revenue to fund it, regardless of mounting evidence of waste and excess.
"Today, the state’s highest-paid employees make far more than comparable workers elsewhere in almost all job and wage categories, from public safety to health care, base pay to overtime," concluded a recent Bloomberg News series. Payroll data culled by the news agency shows that "California has set a pattern of lax management, inefficient operations and out-of-control costs." The most stunning example: A Highway Patrol officer with a pay and benefit package of nearly a half-million dollars.